27th Parliament · 2nd Session
Mr SPEAKER (Hon. Sir William Aston) took the chair at 10.30 a.m., and read prayers.
– I present the following petition:
To the Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled. The Humble Petition of European citizens of New South Wales respectfully sheweth:
Whereas the Aboriginal people in the Balranald area being in a serious state of neglect with regard to -
lack of housing for persons living at present in old car bodies and makeshift humpies, and
inadequate, substandard and overcrowded houses for a significant percentage of the population, and
there being no employment for the majority of those able to work, both male and female, and
there being no security of tenure for residents living on the Balranald Reserve.
Your petitioners request that your honourable House make legal provision for -
adequate, high standard housing for the Aboriginal people of the Balranald district on sites which are acceptable to the Aboriginal persons concerned whether the sites be in the town or on the Reserve, and
employment opportunities in the district for all those able to work, and
full legal title to the land on the Balranald Reserve for those residents of the Reserve.
And your petitioners, as in duty bound, will ever pray.
Petition received and read.
– I present the following petition:
To the Honourable Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament Assembled. The humble petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully sheweth:
That the Australian Education Council’s report on the needs of State education services has established serious deficiencies in education.
That these can be summarised as lack of classroom accommodation, desperate teacher shortage, oversized classes and inadequate teaching aids.
That the additional sum of one thousand million dollars is required over the next five years by the State for these needs.
That without massive additional Federal finance the State school system will disintegrate.
That the provisions of the Handicapped Children’s Assistance Act 1970 should be amended to include all the country’s physically and mentally handicapped children.
Your petitioners most humbly pray that the House of Representatives in Parliament will take immediate steps to -
Ensure that emergency finance from the Commonwealth will be given to the States for their public education service which provide schooling for seventy-eight per cent of Australia’s children. And your petitioners, as in duty hound, will ever pray.
Petition received and read.
– I present the following petition:
To the Honourable Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament Assembled. The humble petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully sheweth:
That the Australian Education Council’s report on the needs of State education services has established serious deficiencies in education.
That these can be summarised as lack of classroom accommodation, desperate teacher shortage, oversized classes and inadequate teaching aids.
That the additional sum of one thousand million dollars is required over the next five years by the State for these needs.
That without massive additional Federal finance the State school system will disintegrate.
That the provisions of the Handicapped Children’s Assistance Act 1970 should be amended to include all the country’s physically and mentally handicapped children.
Your petitioners most humbly pray that the House of Representatives in Parliament will take immediate steps to -
Ensure that emergency finance from the Commonwealth will be given to the States for their public education service which provide schooling for seventy-eight per cent of Australia’s children. And your petitioners, as in duty bound, will ever pray.
I present the following petition:
To the Honourable the Speaker and members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled. The humble petition of the undersigned citizens of Newcastle respectfully showeth:
THAT they are NOT gravely concerned that moral standards in the Australian community may be changing, particularly in regard to the community’s willingness to treat adults within it as reasonable and responsible people who are capable of making up their own minds as to what maybe perfectly acceptable or unacceptable material in books, magazines, plays, films and television and radio programmes, and particularly when this material depicts life in human society, including language habits and sex habits and gives warning of the dangers of the use of violence and narcotic drugs;
THAT they in fact welcome this change, having regard for the fact that it demonstrates an increasing tolerance of and respect for the rights of individuals to think their own way through their own lives, free from information-withholding restrictions which people of one religion or one standard of morals may seek to impose on either the majority or minority who do not hold the same views;
THAT they question the simplistic view that nations ‘perish’ because of a so-called ‘internal moral decay’ unless such ‘decay’ is taken to include an increasing unwillingness to face the facts of life in open discussion and freedom of thought;
THAT they welcome the statement by the Honourable the Minister for Customs and Excise, Mr Chipp, that the concept of censorship is abhorrent to all men and women who believe in the basic freedoms and that, as a philosophy, it is evil and ought to be condemned -
Your petitioners therefore, humbly pray that honourable members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled will seek to ensure that Commonwealth legislation bearing on films, literature and radio and television programmes is so framed and so administered as to give the maximum freedom to adults to choose what they will watch, read and listen to, even in the face of pressure from those who seek to impose their ideas and morals on others who do not share them.
And your petitioners, as in duty bound, will ever pray.
Petition received and read.
– I ask the Prime Minister whether he will confirm that Sir Daryl Lindsay, whom Sir Robert Menzies appointed as Chairman of the National Art Gallery Committee of Inquiry in September 196S and whom he himself appointed as Chairman of the Interim Council of the Australian National Gallery in July 1968, has resigned? Did this distinguished artist, citizen and gallery administrator resign because the right honourable gentleman has not acted on the Interim Council’s recommendation on the appointment of a Director of the Gallery, for which position applicants were interviewed in July 1969? When does the right honourable gentleman expect to make the appointment which he told my colleague, the honourable member for Melbourne Ports, last May he hoped to make shortly?
– Yes, I can confirm that Sir Daryl Lindsay has resigned and that the reason for his resignation was that his recommendations for the appointment of a Director were not accepted. I do not think that I should discuss in any way the persons recommended for that position, but I think it is fair to say that there was by no means unanimity in the Interim Council on the first recommendations made. I think that the Australian National Gallery should stand for generations here in the national capital as an example, if we can make it so, of the finest design possible and I believe that, to attain that end, we should call on international knowledge of gallery design and seek advice from those who have before this time designed galleries in other parts of the world. I cannot tell the Leader of the Opposition when a decision on this matter will be made, but I can inform him that at the time I answered the question which was asked of me previously the Interim Council was in consultation and in discussion a very distinguished international designer of art galleries who, for reasons which again I will not go into at this stage, decided that he would not accept the position. I hope he will change his mind.
– Is the Minister for Education and Science aware of a report that Sydney’s 3 universities have refused admission to more than 5,000 qualified applicants? Will the Government endeavour to see that all qualified students who wish to undertake university studies are enabled to do so?
-I am aware of the report but I cannot give the honourable member the assurance for which he has asked. I am naturally concerned at the position that has been revealed. I think it is due to 2 main factors: Firstly, the number of young people who are staying on to higher school certificate level in secondary schools is very much greater than it was some years ago, and, secondly, the universities are endeavouring to plan their rate of growth deliberately and they have chosen their quotas on this basis. The Commonwealth Government, as honourable members know, provides funds for a 3-year period in response to growth plans proposed over that period by the universities themselves. Of course, universities are autonomous institutions. I would suggest that any applicant who has been unable to gain admission to one of the metropolotian universities might consider applying to the universities of New England, Wollongong or Newcastle. I am not aware of any restriction in these universities. He may, of course, apply to the Australian National University or be attracted to one of the excellent tertiary courses at the colleges of advanced education.
There is one other matter that I should mention. Australian universities have, in fact, coped very well with the demand for places. If we consider the age group from 17 to 22 years which is the group entering universities and compare Australia with the United Kingdom, twice the proportion enter university in Australia than is the case in the United Kingdom. Unfortunately, in Australia we have twice the failure rate of England. Some say that this wastage indicates that there are too many young people attending Australian universities who are not suited to it. We are concerned at this and are making a study of the entrance standards. The Australian Vice-Chancellor Committee is studying not only the entrance standards but also the teaching methods at the universities because these could contribute to the failure rate. I would expect some result early this year from these studies. When one is dealing with expenditure, the funds of taxpayers, many of whom have not been able to attend university, the question of wastage needs careful consideration.
– I address a question to the Treasurer. Does the Rural Bank of New South Wales participate in the operation of Commonwealth-State housing or housing commission home purchase schemes? Is it a fact that some bank officers have been giving preferential treatment to those applicants for housing loans who undertake to become members of a certain political party? Would such behaviour be tantamount to political blackmail? Does the Government condone this practice? As a basis of ensuring that such a practice is discouraged, will the Treasurer institute an inquiry to ascertain whether, in fact, such happenings have occurred, espe cially within the area of the Shortland electorate, by obtaining the name of the political party concerned, the number of bank officers who have become members of political parties over recent years, in particular since 1968, and the number of applicants who have received housing loans over the same period or who have been promised loans in consideration of their becoming members of political parties?
– I have no knowledge of this matter. I point out to the honourable member that the Rural Bank of New South Wales in no way comes under my jurisdiction. It is a State Government instrumentality which operates quite independently of my Department. I think it would be most inappropriate for me to conduct the kind of heresy hunt which the honourable member has in mind.
– I address to the Minister for the Navy a question relating to the oil spillage which occurred, during refuelling operations, at Chowder Bay in Sydney Harbour last week. Can the Minister inform me what caused the spillage, when the delivery pipe was installed and when was it last tested, what measures were taken to reduce the effects of the pollution, and what further measures will be taken to minimise any such future occurrences?
– The oil spillage occurred because of a fracture in a weld. The pipe was installed, according to my information, during World War II. The notion that there was some measure of negligence associated with the spillage is not well founded. The pipe was examined by the Department of Works in or about June last year. It was found to be quite satisfactory. Since the spillage the pipe has been repaired and has been examined further. I understand that, in cleaning up the oil, a preparation known as gamelin was used. I know nothing about the preparation, but I understand that is used internationally as an emulsion for oil spillage.
– You do know a little?
– I know a little. To that extent I have a distinct advantage over the honourable member. I know the interest of the honourable member for Warringah in pollution generally. I would like him to understand that the Department of the Navy has sought to use further means to prevent possible spillages. One such measure is boom control. I hope the honourable gentleman will use his influence to assure people who may take the view that there was negligence on the part of those operating the oil facility that that is simply not true.
– I ask the Minister for Trade and industry a question about an arrangement to have an Australian fortnight at the Neiman-Marcus store in Texas, ls it a fact that such an arrangement was entered into and that this very famous, powerful and attractive store was willing to spend $100,000 to display Australian products and other items favourable to Australia? Is it a fact that Mr Marcus, the head of the store, has written stating that this display was abandoned because Australia was unable to supply sufficient quality goods? Is it also a fact that the explanation given in Australia was that returns in trade to Australia would not have justified the expense? If this is so, can the Minister give the House evidence why this expense would not have been justified in what is one of the most wealthy markets in the world - Texas - least supplied with Australian goods?
– It is true that Mr Stanley Marcus came to Australia to try to do a deal with the Department of Trade and Industry to have an Australian fortnight at its very large departmental store in Texas. The store is not quite a departmental store; it is a specialty store that deals in luxury goods. It has been the custom of ‘the store to have a special fortnight for countries or for regions of the world or for events of some international significance. When Mr Marcus approached the Department last August, it showed interest in the idea. Acceptance of the offer was dependent upon whether there would be a sufficient buy-in of Australian goods and whether continuing business would be developed. When Mr Marcus came to Australia, the indication was that it would cost us $150,000 to participate in this operation. He surveyed the market here for goods and reported that there was only a veneer of Australian goods that would be satisfactory for his store. The amount of buy-in was his choice. It is not a case of Australia not supplying goods or not having them. Mr Marcus came to Australia and surveyed what the opportunities were. The facts were examined by the Department of Trade and Industry and it was found that there would be an insufficient purchase of Australian made goods to warrant the operation. A decision was made last August by my predecessor not to continue with the operation. Many requests for Australian participation have been made to the Department and to myself since I took over my present portfolio. I have looked at the facts and I support the decision that was made.
– Can the Minister for Trade and Industry advise us of the present position with regard to negotiations taking place at Geneva concerning the International Grains Arrangement, the International Wheat Council, the Wheat Trade Convention and the Food Aid Convention? Has any firm arrangement been made for a further meeting and if so is Russia likely to be a participant at the next meeting?
– The International Grains Arrangement concludes on 30th June this year. Negotiations have been taking place in Geneva over the past 5 weeks to try to facilitate a continuation of international orderly marketing of wheat. In these negotiations the International Wheat Trade Convention and the Food Aid Convention have been examined. The meeting will conclude today. I hope to have a detailed report of the meeting over the weekend and I will then be in a position to give this House more information next week. From the information that has come back to me the meeting has not been able to reach a conclusion on pricing and supply commitments. However, despite the fact that the pricing mechanism has not been operating under the International Grains Arrangement for the past 12 months Australia has made near record sales of wheat. These sales amount to slightly over 300 million bushels and the price has been maintained around the levels specified under the earlier conditions of the International Grains Arrangement.
A decision has been made by the countries attending the Conference that they support the concept of orderly marketing. Also, these countries hope that they can come to some firmer pricing and supply arrangements. Discussions on this matter will take place later this year at a meeting of the International Wheat Council in London. If the discussions take place in this forum there is a good indication that the Soviet Union and other countries will participate in the agreement. These countries would not participate under the old International Grains Arrangement because it was under the auspices of the Kennedy Round talks. I am hopeful that we can maintain a form of orderly marketing. The new Arrangement might be even more successful and beneficial than the old one.
– My question is directed to the Prime Minister in the absence of the Minister for Foreign Affairs. In view of the remarkable revelation by the Minister for Foreign Affairs that Australia was not consulted about the United States sponsored operations in Laos, can the Prime Minister say whether under the terms of the ANZUS Treaty Australia was consulted about the statement made by President Nixon yesterday?
– I do not understand why the honourable member should say that it is extraordinary that Australia was not consulted about a military operation in Laos in which Australian troops were not involved. I fail to see entirely why Australia should be consulted before a military operation of that kind is undertaken. I have no first-hand knowledge of whether the statement made by President Nixon yesterday was cleared - if that is what the honourable member suggests - with the Minister for Foreign Affairs or sent to the Minister for Foreign Affairs. It was not sent to me. I do not see any reason again why it should have been.
– I desire to ask the Minister for Social Services a question. I refer to the floods which are devastating much of New South Wales and in particular the north and north west. I understand that there are a number of Aboriginal settlements on the rivers in these areas. As these settlements have undoubtedly been affected by flooding can the Minister tell me whether his Department is arranging for emergency aid to ensure that any displaced Aboriginals are temporarily housed and fed until the floods recede and they can return home?
– As the honourable member will know the present floods are quite unprecedented. They have affected not only Aboriginals but also all other persons in that area. He would also know that in consultation with the State authorities and the Civil Defence organisations the Commonwealth authorities, and particularly the Army, have been co-operating in an endeavour to mitigate the effects of this natural disaster. Of course the Aboriginals have shared in the general relief which the Commonwealth through its instrumentalities and with the New South Wales authorities has endeavoured to afford to people in the area.
As the honourable member said in his question there are some special problems for Aboriginals who live on the river banks in accordance with their traditional way of life and their traditional customs, because they were river people. These Aboriginals have been flooded out. In consultation with the New South Wales Minister for Child Welfare and Minister for Social Welfare, Mr Hewitt, I arranged for the Army to make available emergency tentage especially for the relief of these Aboriginals. This has been made available in certain towns. I understand that 50 tents have been made available in Bourke, 36 - if I remember correctly - in Moree and in Brewarrina and various other towns. At present my officers are in consultation with the officers of the New South Wales Government. I have been in consultation with the Minister for the Interior and the State authorities in this matter to see whether some cooking and marquee arrangements could be made on a temporary basis using Army equipment for these Aboriginals.
Looking ahead, I hope that as a result of this the New South Wales Government will be able to proceed yet further with its plans for better housing for Aboriginals in this area. Let me say 2 things. Firstly, at the present moment the housing is in many respects quite unsatisfactory and, secondly, in the last 4 or 5 years more improvements have been made than ever before. These improvements are continuing under the joint policy of this Government and the New South Wales Government. I hope that this improvement will continue and accelerate. Secondly in the last few years there has been an immense improvement in these areas in the relationship between the Aboriginal people and the other people. I note this with gratitude, as I am sure everybody will.
– I ask the Prime Minister a question supplementary to the question asked by the honourable member for St George. Have Royal Australian Air Force aircraft or personnel based in South Vietnam ever operated outside the territory or air space of South Vietnam? Have they been authorised to operate outside them?
– The answer is that, to the best of my knowledge and information, they have never operated outside. I understand that the directive for Australian forces in Vietnam is that they should not operate outside the borders of Vietnam. This is the Defence directive.
– I ask the Treasurer whether he knows that the Japanese Minister for International Trade and Industry - that is, MITI - will come to Australia in April and, as well, a large delegation of Japanese calling itself the Australian Economy Research Mission will come here in March. Is this the first step towards economic co-existence with Japan, and will the next stage be for Japanese to obtain the right of investment and establishment in Australia?
– I do know something of the second mission that the honourable member mentions. I think that this is the Japanese Government economic survey mission which is coming here under the chairmanship of Mr Tajitsu who is the chairman of the Mitsubishi Bank. I am making arrangements now to see the members of that mission in March. I have no direct personal information about the first mission mentioned by the honourable member. But this certainly would not be the first step towards the co-existence to which he refers. A series of high power Japanese missions has visited Australia. In fact, I had discussions with one at some length. It was an investment mission which came here under the chairmanship of the chairman of the Tokyo Stock Exchange. That mission arrived in Sydney to study investments in the middle of the Minsec crisis.
There are large numbers of Japanese who, for their own reasons, naturally wish to become better acquainted with Australia to ascertain what can be done here and how our institutions work, in the same way as we on our side have a well justified curiosity about the habits and customs of the Japanese. I did notice some report in the Press speculating upon other aspects of what this mission might have in mind but, in the absence of facts, this source is never lacking in imagination to fill in the gaps. I have no knowledge in this direction but Japanese investment already is welcome here on the same terms as is investment from other people. So, I would not attach to the visit of this mission the kind of significance which the honourable member may, or which he suggests may be read into it.
Japan and Australia have many common interests in the international sphere. We are interested in limiting the spread of exclusive trading blocs and restrictions on world trade generally in which both countries have a strong interest. Our mutual dependence on each other is growing constantly. These kinds of things seem to me naturally to call for more and more personal contact between the leaders of industry and finance in each country. I feel sure that this will occur, not as the result of some grandiose scheme but just in the course of nature.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Education and Science. Has the attention of the Minister been drawn to the heavy financial burden placed on the parents of children when it is necessary for those children to change schools, such as the movement from primary school to high school, at which time parents must purchase new uniforms for their children often at a cost of $70 or more? Have representations been made to the Minister advocating a common uniform for all schools? Would the Minister care to comment on that suggestion?
-Order! The honourable member should not ask the Minister for comment, but if the Minister is prepared to answer the question he may do so. While I am on this subject, I point out that yesterday two questions were asked of Ministers as to whether or not certain, information was true. 1 told the House last year that questions of this type are out of order. I also wish to draw the attention of the House to the fact that questions asking Ministers for comment are out of order and. in the future. I will so rule.
-I remind the honourable gentleman that this aspect of education is almost entirely under the control of the State education departments; so these matters have not been brought to my attention. I lake it that the honourable member’s proposal to have one uniform for the whole of the school system refers to one whole State. Perhaps he could take the matter up with State education authorities, lt is not a matter that we have under our consideration.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Primary Industry. Is he in a position to say what amount of money will be left in the $30m emergency relief fund made available to wool growers whose gross incomes fell below a certain percentage in the years 1968-69 and 1969-70? As some wool growers did not qualify for this relief within the benchmarks laid down, but nevertheless incurred heavy liabilities in order to mitigate a serious decline in gross income during the prescribed years, will the Minister consider a further examination of. these cases with a view to providing assistance to these people from any balance remaining in the fund?
– The emergency wool relief grant was introduced last year because of the very critical decline in financial returns to wool producers. The scheme was designed to put into the pockets of woolgrowers as quickly as possible some financial help to try to alleviate problems that were accelerated because of drought in many areas and because of the very real problems that affected rural producers generally, lt is my understanding that some S 14.6m has now been spent out of the S30m, but in accordance with the applications for which approval has been granted some millions of dollars are still to be allocated. About 5,000 applications - I am not sure of the exact figure - which have not been processed must also affect the level of outgoings. So at this point of time I am not able to say just how much of the S30m will be unspent at 30th June. I might add that $30m was intended to be the maximum sum allocated. While there is no accurate assessment, it is estimated that $4m or $5m of that amount could well be unspent at the end of June. The other matter raised by the honourable gentleman is a matter of policy and will be determined by the Government. If any decision on it is taken an announcement will be made at the appropriate time.
– My question is directed to the Minister for National Development. Is the Australian Atomic Energy Commission conducting research on atomic reactor hazards and safeguards? If any research is done on hazards and safeguards, will reports of this research be made available to the public or will they be’ kept secret?
– The Australian Atomic Energy Commission has representation on the world agency which is responsible for the maintenance of safeguards throughout the world. Australia participates to some degree in the continuous worldwide research in these fields. I am not quite sure what the honourable gentleman has in mind, but if there are any specific points that he wishes cleared up or any reports that he would like to be provided to him regarding world safeguards J certainly will provide them to him.
– Is it possible for the Minister for Primary Industry to tell the House the number of bales of wool presently stockpiled by the Australian Wool Commission? Can he also advise the number of bales the Commission has resold and, if any were sold, the profit obtained?
– The answer to the honourable gentleman’s question is no. I am not in a position to inform him of the number of bales of wool purchased by the Australian Wool Commission, but I can advise the honourable member and the House that the activities of the Australian Wool Commission to date have been engaged in at a tune of what I regard as a deplorably minimal price level for wool. In Australia we have had over the years a very marked dependency throughout the breadth of primary industry on wool as a fibre, and wool more than any other single primary product has been the infrastructure upon which most of the Australian hinterland has depended.
The Australian Wool Commission came into the market at a time when there was a very slight market rise, and I understand that early activities of the Commission were followed by some resale of wool purchased. Unfortunately in the market season that opened at the beginning of this year there has not been the same rising tendency in the market and the Wool Commission has been very active. Because it has been active it has put a stability into the market that would not otherwise have been present. At a time when rural conditions are so critical and when wool is still such a substantially important fibre, I would like to assure the honourable member that the buying activities of the Wool Commission are certainly supported in that they are providing a stability that would not otherwise be present.
– I direct a question to the Prime Minister. I refer to the statement on the economy that he made in this place on Tuesday night, in particular his reference to the proposed reduction in the staff intake of the Commonwealth Public Service. He said:
Has the normal intake of school leavers been accepted into the Public Service this year, or will the burden of the cut in employment be thrown on to this class of person? Have the young men who would normally be accepted as apprentices and trainees in the various Commonwealth Government Departments, such as the Department of the Navy, the Department of Supply and all the other departments which normally take a substantial number of apprentices and trainees each year, been denied the opportunity to receive skilled training? Can the Prime Minister give us any details of the types of people who have been debarred from employment in the Commonwealth Public Service?
– I think the honourable member will realise that the method of carrying out a reduction in the growth of the Public Service is one for the Public Service Board and the departments concerned. If he wishes. I will endeavour to gel: from the Public Service Board an answer to his questions so far as they can be answered, but this would be something that 1 would regard as being within the responsibility of the Board itself and the departments with which it deals.
– ls the Minister for National Development aware of the deep concern of residents of the Mallee electorate and those in other electorates bounded by the Murray River at the delay in the commencement of the building of the proposed Dartmouth Dam? Has the Minister used all means available to convince the South Australian Labor Premier and his Government and the Labor Opposition in this House that this waste of time represents a disregard for security, production and national development?
– The honourable member was quite right when he referred in the latter part of his question to the benefits that would be gained from the construction of the Dartmouth Dam, and I can assure him that concern is being expressed by a number of people not only in Victoria but also in South Australia in relation to the delay in the commencement of this very important work. As 1 said yesterday, we have had discussions with the Government of South Australia. We have been in negotiation with its representatives on several occasions regarding this matter. The situation as it stands at the present time is completely in their court. I do not think that at the moment there is any further action we can take in relation to lt. The matter was clearly put before them at the last conference of all the governments concerned. It was then decided by the other governments that they would ask the South Australian Government to review the situation and to endeavour to do something about the ratification of the agreement.
There has been some publicity from Victoria again today. The Victorians have been expressing great concern regarding this matter. I think the Premier of Victoria indicated that his State could not hold indefinitely the financial reserves which at present are being held for this work. The problem is becoming critical. This work is of vital importance to the whole Murray system. I am sure that even members of the Opposition here who have a vital interest in this matter would support a case to ensure that this important work is carried out. I know that they have expressed their support in perhaps a slightly different way in the past, but - 1 am sure that basically they agree that it is essential that this work be carried out and that it be carried out as soon as possible. So, once again we can only ask the Premier and Government of South Australia to do something as soon as possible about ratification of the agreement.
– 1 have had presented to me a document which provides more of an answer to the question asked of me by the honourable member for Newcastle. It is a circular letter from the Commonwealth Public Service Board to Commonwealth Public Service inspectors. It reads:
You already have a copy of my circular letter to Permanent Heads elated 1 5th January 1971 in which I informed them of the Government’s policy regarding restraint in the Commonwealth Service.
Pending consideration by the Board of the various measures it .should take .n order to support the Government’s policy, flense do not issue any further offers of appointment to school leaver applicants for appointment to positions of Clerk Class 1 in the Third Division. We shall be gelling in touch with you regarding the overall situation.
I thought I might add that as the answer to the question.. .
– Pursuant to section 4! of the Meat Industry Act 1964-1969, I present the thirty-fifth annual report of the Australian Meat Board for the year ended 30th June 1970, together with financial statements and the report of the AuditorGeneral on those statements. An interim report of the Board was presented on 3rd September 1970.
– Pursuant to section 29 of the Dairy Produce Export Control Act 1924-1966. I present the Annual Report of the Australian Dairy Produce Board for the year ended 30th June 1970. An interim report of the Board was presented to the House on 19th August 1970.
– In accordance wilh the provisions of the Public Works Committee Act- 1969, I present the report relating to the following proposed work:
Electricity Supply Power Station at Alice Springs Northern Territory.
Ordered that the report be printed.
– I move:
The -proposed work is the provision of living accommodation, teaching Facilities, recreation facilities and associated amenities and’ services to accommodate 300 male and female students preparing for a secondary education or undertaking postprimary courses. The college will be located approximately 4-* miles south of the AliceSprings town centre. The estimated cost of’ the proposed work is S2.9m. I table plans of the proposed works. . .
– The Opposition supports the motion. 1 am given to understand that this is the first of these colleges in the Commonwealth of Australia. In such circumstances the Opposition wholeheartedly gives its support to the principles and benefits involved in this proposal. There is certainly a need for this type of institution, especially in the Northern Territory and I hope that Western Australia and Queensland in particular also follow the pattern that has been set in the Northern Territory. The pleasing part of this proposal, or the principles underlying it, is that Aboriginal students will be given the opportunity to do post-primary and secondary education in various disciplines. This is something which 1 believe has been sadly lacking in Australia up to the present time. There has been a tendency throughout Australia to let Aboriginal children go to school up to primary level and almost invariably as soon as the age requirements are fulfilled those children leave school and before very long there is a downward trend in terms of their assimilation in the community as far as jobs are concerned rather than an upward trend at least to a level with white children. This institution is something which is badly needed in Australia and I hope it will give the lead to other parts of Australia, particularly Queensland and Western Australia.
– I support this move to have a college of the Kormilda type opened in Alice Springs at a cost of approximately $2. 9m. The Kormilda College in Darwin is a prototype of the institution or college which is proposed to be built in Alice Springs. It has proved to be a tremendous success so I am more than pleased to hear of this announcement. For one thing, it will take the pressure off Kormilda College. For another, the children who attend Kormilda College travel from the Alice Springs area and even districts south and west of Alice Springs and this necessitates a 1600 mile journey to and from the college 2 or 3 times a year. So not only will this college save them this lengthy travelling but it will also enable them to go to school in their own environment in central Australia which, I think, is very important with regard to the bringing up of children whether they be Aboriginal or European.
So I commend the Government on the step it is taking in this regard.
– Like previous speakers i welcome the announcement that a college of this type will be built in Alice Springs because it is apparent to anybody who goes to Central Australia that additional facilities are needed for Aboriginal students. On one occasion when the Public Works Committee was meeting in Alice Springs to look at the secondary education needs of that area a witness was asked what area the proposed Alice Springs high school covered. I think he said it extended from Port Augusta in the south to Mt lsa in the north. One can imagine in that region the number of Aboriginal people who are denied any education at all due to the inadequacy of facilities. The members of the Public Works Committee in the hearing on the Alice Springs high school paid particular attention to the special needs of Aboriginal people including additional and special facilities to assist them with reading. There are also various problems which occur to a considerable extent among desert dwellers and these include hearing deficiences. Additional provisions are needed for this purpose in schools and colleges catering for Aboriginal people.
Mention has been made of the Kormilda College. I recently visited the Kormilda College at Darwin. Anyone who goes to Darwin must be overwhelmingly impressed with the standard of educational facilities in that rapidly expanding’ city. There are a number of excellent infant, primary and secondary schools and some private colleges. However, from my observations the most distressingly inadequate educational facility in Darwin is the Kormilda College for Aboriginal students. The college utilises old wartime premises of a warehouse variety and in every way it is totally inadequate. I would not like anybody to get the impression from what the honourable member for the Northern Territory (Mr Calder) said today that we would be doing a good thing if we were to emulate the Kormilda College. From the stand point of physical aspects I think he would probably agree with me that the college is completely inadequate and quite disgraceful. 1 hope that the college to be provided at Alice Springs will set a new standard. Most of us in this Parliament are aware of the inadequate educational opportunities for Aboriginals in Australia. We have been told that on the eastern seaboard 9 out of 10 Aboriginals do not get past second form. When we think of the low number of Aboriginal people who qualify at the tertiary level of education we can appreciate the enormous need to assail this problem in a dramatic way and in this way we will need to have, apart from the building of the college at Alice Springs, better facilities and resources to enable the Aboriginal people to keep in touch with their own communities. It is a matter of assisting them to unburden themselves of their ignorance through formal education; it is also a matter of encouraging them to consolidate the pride which they have in their racial origins. To achieve that objective they will require travel opportunities so that they may return to their families in the remote parts of this country from time to time. I hope it will not be very long before the proposed educational facility for Aboriginal students at Alice Springs will become a reality.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Debate resumed from 4 March 1970 (vide page 74), on motion by Mr Anthony:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
– The basic purpose of the Sugar Agreement Bill 1970, as was stated by the former Minister for Primary Industry in his second reading speech, is to obtain the approval of Parliament to an agreement made between the Commonwealth and Queensland governments to regulate the production and marketing of sugar within the Commonwealth for a period of 5 years from 1st July 1969. The Minister said that was the basic purpose of the Bill. This Bill was introduced into Parliament on 4th March 1970. The way in which this Bill has been handled is a classic example of poor government because this is an important piece of legislation. For example it sets the maximum wholesale prices for refined and other sugar in Australia. The Bill contains a very important clause with respect to the embargo on imports of sugar and sugar products into Australia, lt prohibits the importation of sugar, golden syrup and treacle. There are important provisions in the Bill relating to the export sugar rebate on the one hand and to the domestic sugar rebate on the other hand. In other words, there are vital issues involved in this Bill. Last Tuesday I criticised the Government because of the 12 months delay in dealing with the Mapping Surveys Bill 1970. I wonder what the honourable member for Angas (Mr Giles) who I understand is to follow me in this debate will say about this because he is vitally concerned about issues affecting the fruit industry which are contained in this Bill. I. have placed a question on this matter on the notice paper, but the principal reason why the Opposition has not raised this matter is because it supports the Bill. However, a principle is involved. When an important Bill such as this is introduced into the Parliament surely it should not take 12 months to bring it on for debate.
I would like to ask the Minister for Primary Industry (Mr Sinclair), who is at the fable, a question. What constitutional right does the Government have to continue to place an embargo on sugar without the agreement of the Parliament? Certainly the Schedule to the Bill deals with the fixation of a maximum wholesale price as between the Commonwealth and the States. There is a measure of doubt about this, but I understand that under the Constitution it is quite correct for the Commonwealth to enter into agreements with the States without ratification by the Parliament. I do not agree with that procedure, but the legal advice I have is that it is correct. The placing of the embargo is quite a different proposition. I hasten to add that the Opposition supports the Bill, but we are concerned about the principle involved. Tt should not take the Commonwealth Government 12 months to bring on a Bill for debate after its introduction.
The scope of the Bill is limited. I would like to discuss today subjects such as the International Sugar Agreement, the possibility of Britain’s entry into the European Economic Community, the present situation of quotas under the International Sugar Agreement and the recent decisions of the International Sugar Council. However, I am given to understand that these matters are outside the scope of the Bill and may be referred to only in passing. The crux of the Bill is the price of sugar in Australia today. If farm costs in Australia continue to rise as a result of the increasing pressure of inflationary forces, a significant increase in the price of sugar under the domestic sugar agreement will be fully justified. I have not said that just for the sake of making a statement. It is based on facts and supporting evidence. The evidence is that since 1960, under the terms of the agreement made between the Commonwealth and Queensland, the price of refined sugar in Australia has been increased only once - on 19th June 1967. The increase in the price of refined sugar was $26 a ton or a little over 1 cent pel lb. That is one increase in 1 1 years.
It cannot properly be said that the sugar industry has been receiving favourable treatment through increases in prices. The best evidence available to me from the Bureau of Agricultural Economics is that during the same period of 1 1 years the costs on cane farms as determined by the prices paid for the commodities and services used have increased on average by 26 per cent. On the one hand there has been one increase in the price of sugar; on the other hand there has been an increase of 26 per cent in costs. Someone may ask: What about the export market?’ The domestic market consumes only about onethird of our total sugar production. In the same 1 1-year period average sugar prices including all markets have increased by only 7 per cent up to the end of 1970. It is another classic example of the cost-price squeeze. Costs have risen by 26 per cent while the price of sugar has increased by only 7 per cent.
How is the deficiency to be made up unless excess demand or inflation takes control? The answer is obvious - by increased productivity. To some degree the sugar industry has increased productivity, but as it is deliberately controlled in terms of production - it is the best model in Australia for a study of the primary industries in respect of controlled production in relation to realistic domestic and overseas demand - certain sections, particularly the small producers. are vulnerable to increased costs. Although there is unquestionably a case for an increase in the price of sugar based simply on the economics of the industry itself in terms of net income or, if it is preferred, in terms of cost increases which are sweeping through the industry, the matter is not as simple as that.
I remind honourable members of the experience of the wool industry in which on the one hand there is the devil of inflation causing increased costs, and on the other hand there is the devil of stagnation or a decline in world prices due to a large degree to the march of synthetics. Any increase in the price of sugar in Australia must be given very careful consideration because synthetic or artificial sweet.ners are always just around the corner. The substitutes can take a greater share of the market, particularly for industrial use by breweries and such places. So it is not just a simple question of looking at costs and incomes and preparing a case. It is necessary to analyse the effect on demand of increasing prices when, substitutes are available. - -
In some countries cyclamatic acids have been banned as a health hazard. Investigations are proceeding in Australia to determine whether a similar step should be taken here. Certainly under present conditions substitutes for sugar are available. How have the cane farms been able to stand up to increasing costs? Farms with large peaks - that is with regard to the total amount of sugar a farm can produce within the relevant Acts - have been able to offset cost increases to some degree through increased mechanisation and efficiency and increased output as a result of the last expansion. Increased output caused a drop in the average cost curve on the larger farms. Of course, that drop has now been more than compensated for by increased costs.
Farms with very small peaks - of from 1,000 tons to 1,500’ tons- are highly vulnerable because creeping inflation is causing an increase in costs. They cannot produce above that peak except at risk, so that unless the price of sugar is increased the vicious scissor movement will be aggravated and the profit margin will be progressively reduced. We have been talking about inflation at some length this week. If it continues at Rs .present rate, lt will be necessary to implement changes in the Qld sugar industry, providing substantially higher average prices are not received.
Seven years ago when peaks were being formulated as a result of the expansion of the industry they were fixed on the basic assumption that the cane farmers would be able to earn sufficient income to give them a reasonable living. How often have we heard that type of policy expounded, not only in Australia but overseas as well. I have in mind, for example, schemes for soldier settlement and general closer settlement. Over a number of years many people involved in such schemes, in terms of technology, have become almost peasant farmers. Although this objective was an admirable one, inflation has wrecked it. Today the small farmers are in serious trouble, lt is unjust and inequitable to allow bona fide farmers and their families with small peaks to be crucified by savage inflationary forces to the extent that the only alternative facing them will be to sell their farms, irrespective of how efficient they might be. In many cases they are highly efficient when it comes to the yield of sugar per acre and the cost of production per acre, but their net cash income is simply insufficient to give them a livable income to support their families and to provide a sufficient reserve with which to replace their capital equipment.
Every effort should be made to find an equitable method by which these small peaks can be increased or, alternatively, priority should be given to them when there is an opportunity for No. 2 pool sugar or when there is a chance of harvesting sugar above the aggregate peaks. Although this might mean that a very big farm, say, with’ a peak of 5,000 tons, may not receive the same percentage increase of excessive sugar when harvesting as a small farm might receive, in absolute terms this would be a good thing for the industry as a whole. I believe that, and so do a lot of other people. With the exception of the small producer, the sugar industry is currently in a better position to withstand the forces of inflation than any other major primary industry, because of the policy of deliberately controlled production, backed at every move by government decree. It has often been called a socialised industry. It does not matter what it is called. The fact is that in this type of production, where production is related strictly to market demand, there are no surplus producers of sugar. Consequently, this type of system is such that the sugar industry is not as vulnerable as other industries are to inflationary forces.
If inflation starts to gallop then nothing will save this industry, like others also, and the small producers certainly will be the first to feel the force. The unprotected beef industry, despite its sound future, is wide open to heavy cost increases. All other major rural industries are plagued by disastrously low prices and over production. I stress that point because I have said many times in this House and outside it that other primary industries should take a good look at the organisation and structure of the sugar industry in terms of controlled production in relation to market demand. There are several aspects, which are not so important, with respect to marketing with which I disagree and which I think can be improved. But the basic principles underlying the production and marketing of sugar are sound and they should be followed by other industries, particularly the cash crop industries in Australia. It has been proved true time and time again that there has been financial trouble in the sugar industry only when there has been a relaxation of the strict correlation between production and demand, such as when the International Sugar Agreement collapsed. Then we found that the world price of sugar dropped to as low as £Stg 1 2 per lon. Once the balance of world, production and demand was brought into being again we found fundamental rationality in the industry.
At the present time in most sections of industry, with the exception of small growers, there is a level of prosperity which is not available to most primary industries in Australia. As I. mentioned, many of these costs are outside the control of primary producers. 1 will mention just one .which has an effect. The average cost increases of rates and taxes’ over the 11 year period have been 55 per cent on Queensland farms. This is the type of cost over which the producer has absolutely no control. Similarly we can take the increase in interest costs and associated costs like that. This is where primary industry is highlyvulnerable, particularly on the export market. I want to make one further point which is aimed at the critics who say that the sugar industry in Australia is being subsidised because we have an import embargo. I will deal with that at some length because I think it is time that this myth was exploded.
First of all, let us look at a comparison of the price of sugar in Australia with prices in the principal sugar consuming countries overseas. If the industry is subsidised we would expect our sugar to be sold at a significantly higher price than it is in other countries. The average retail price of sugar in Australia is 9.98c per lb. In Denmark, it is 12.34c per lb. In Finland it is 12.9c per lb. To Italy, a major consumer, it is 15c per lb. In Japan, another major consumer, it is 14. 3c per lb. In the Netherlands, a major consumer, it is 1 3c per lb. In the United States of America, one of the biggest consumers in the world, it is lie per lb. The only major consuming country with a price below Australia’s is the United Kingdom, where the retail price is 7.84c per lb. To that we must add a significant deficiency payment. In other words, the industry has a high degree of consumer subsidy. If that is added we get a price far in excess of the Australian price for sugar. That is the first thing that has to be sheeted home to the critics, because the price paid by consumers of sugar in Australia is not high. In fact, in relative terms, it is low.
The favourite argument of those who criticise the sugar industry is that the world price of sugar, at the height of the sugar trade depression a few years ago, was only £Stg12 a ton. At the present time it is about £Stg50 a lon. They say that we should not be producing sugar; we should be importing sugar. The same thing is said about motor cars, chemicals and every other conceivable product protected by a tariff or a subsidy. That laissez-faire argument went out with Adam Smith. Any country that operates on that type of economy is doomed to a very serious depression with great frequency. What we have to explain is the structure of the sugar industry. First of all there is the home market taking about 670,000 tons. It is a stable domestic market. I have illustrated before that the price to the consumer in Australia is not high. The Commonwealth Sugar Agreement gives Australia a guaranteed price up to a quantity of about 335,000 tons or a little more. Under the United States Act we have a guaranteed price for about 190,000 tons. Then the rest of it - over 1 million tons - is sold on the free market.
Our present quota, with the 110 per cent of basic export tonnages plus shortfalls, is about 1.25 million ions. The important point to remember is that although the world price of sugar is below the raw sugar price in most countries of the world - this is what many economists do not appreciate - this is a residual market. It is not a free world market, as in the case of wool. The amount of sugar sold on the free world market is about 6 million tons out of a total world production of about 60 million tons. A small proportion of that 6 million tons also comes under special agreements. If Australia discontinued its production of sugar the world price of sugar would increase significantly. A fallacy which has to be exploded is the suggestion that Australia is a high cost country in the production of sugar. It is not. In the production of sugar it has one of the lowest costs of production because of its tremendous efficiency through mechanisation and productivity. This is an area in which we must give full credit to the industry and to those people who have played their part in the industry over the long period that it has been in operation.
The elasticity of sugar prices in relation to supply on the free market is such that if the export of sugar from Australia were reduced we would sec a substantial increase in the world face price of sugar. The industry has been shown to be tremendously volatile. To give honourable members some idea of the elasticity of prices, in the 1.8th century, for which statistics are available, the minimum price was £Stg90 per ton. That was a tremendous variation. In the 19th century the minimum price was £Stg10 and the maximum price £Stg98. But in the 20th century the minimum price has been £Stg4 and the maximum price £Stg140 per ton. That tremendous variation has been brought about by the supply and price elasticities. This is one reason why we must have stability for sugar on the home market and why there must be controlled production and a fair price. We cannot afford to have a situation in which we have sudden large increases or decreases in the world price of sugar, such as we saw with the collapse of the International Sugar Agreement.
It is no answer to say that we should import sugar at the world free price because that price is not a world market price in any sense; it is a residual price which can fluctuate, as we have seen in the last 10 years, from £Stg12 to £Stg140. What sort of economy would we have if we embarked on this course, with this stop-go business of having a sugar industry one minute but not the next. 1 must point out that there have been times when the world price of sugar has been greatly in excess of the home consumption price in Australia and there has not been an increase in the domestic price to compensate for the loss being sustained by sugar producers. In those circumstances the producers could easily have adopted the same attitude as their critics and said: Australia will have no sugar this year; we will export the lot.’ This would have resulted in a tremendous increase in the price of sugar in Australia.
It is absolutely necessary to understand the structure of the production and marketing of sugar in Australia and overseas, particularly with reference to the residual market. When this is not understood we find these critics who suggest that we should import all our sugar and close down the industry in Australia. We have enough criticism of that kind in Australia today. Anyone who studies the residual market can understand why this kind of philosophy with regard to the market price simply is not applicable to an industry which is completely bound up with bilateral agreements between specific countries and an international sugar agreement which controls and regulates the production of sugar in relation to demand. I suggest to critics of the industry that they should take a good look at the structure of sugar production, and marketing in relation to the residual free price. They will then see quite clearly that there is no case for a cut down of sugar production in Australia.
Stability has been the keynote of the sugar industry and it is essential that we continue to maintain stability. I have mentioned briefly cost of production and efficiency in the industry. Australia leads the world in terms of physical efficiency such as the amount of sugar per acre which it produces. That is one of the main criteria of efficiency. When one takes into account the yield and quality or ces. of our cane production, despite the very high domestic prices of commodities and labour, Australia still has one of the lowest costs of production of sugar. If the Australian cane farmer could buy chemicals, fertilisers and spare parts at the import parity price, instead of having to pay costs which are greatly inflated by tariffs, his cost of producing sugar would be extraordinarily low on world standards. Similarly if the wool producer did not have to pay high costs for his materials and services he would not be in the parlous position that he is in today. All these points must be sheeted home to the critics of primary industry. However today I am concerned particularly with the sugar industry. Every day I hear the comment chat we should cut down sugar production, that we should wipe out the sugar industry and import sugar. That is absolute nonsense. People who make these suggestions do not understand the structure of sugar production and marketing in relation to the residual free market.
Those are the main points that I had proposed to mention. I would have liked to deal with the very important question of what might happen to the production of sugar in Queensland and New South Wales in the event of Britain joining the European Economic Community.
– It won’t.
– The honourable member is more optimistic than I am. A British delegation which was in Australia only a matter of weeks ago visited north Queensland. There its members made the statement that Britain would look after Queensland’s interest in sugar by drawing up separate agreements. I shall say no more about that, but I have found no evidence to support a statement of that kind. Members of the delegation were regarded as heroes in the north for saying that, but I have been unable to find any evidence in Canberra, overseas or anywhere else to support their contention. My discussions with Mr Rippon when he was in Australia left no doubt in my mind that if Britain joined the Common Market we would be looking for other markets for our sugar. Of course, there would be a phasing out period. If Britain joins the Common Market there should be no reason why, until, say, 1978 when we would be phased out of that market, we cannot overcome the problems of the industry. I would have liked to refer also to quotas. Our quota at present is 110 per cent of the basic export tonnages, but this is misleading because the price could come down within a matter of months, just as it went up very quickly. It is necessary to be cautious.I do not have time to mention other matters.
– Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
– As a Queenslander, and one who recognises the tremendous value of the sugar industry to Queensland and to Australia, it gives me very great pleasure to support the Bill. There has always been a very close cooperation between the Commonwealth Government, the Queensland Government and the sugar industry. This is as it should be, and this policy of close co-operation has been carried on very effectively by the present Commonwealth and Queensland governments. There is no need for me to stress the importance of the sugar industry to Australia and particularly to northern tropical development. This is fully recognised by the Government which realises that the sugar industry is the dominant source of income for tropical north-east Queensland. The effect that the industry has on the economy generally and on the development of that area is almost astounding. No less than 60 per cent of Australia’s tropical population and 90 per cent of Queensland’s tropical population live in the Queensland sugar districts. I need say little more than that to emphasise the tremendous importance of this industry and the part it is playing in our national economy.
I have been appalled to hear suggestions that a lot of this area should be turned lover to the beef cattle industry. What would happen to the population of this region and the prosperous towns within it if that were to happen? I hope that this suggestion does not receive approval or recommendation and that it will be completely disregarded. What would happen to north Queensland in this event is emphasised by the fact that there are no fewer than 8,000 growers in the industry generally, though not all of them are in north Queensland. They have a farm area of some 90 acres. This gives us an idea of the closer settlement and the effect of the sugar industry there. The sugar industry has been a very responsible industry indeed. It can take great pride in the efficiency with which it has conducted its operations and its approach to the idea of being self-supporting and able to stand on its own feet.
On every occasion when the sugar industry has been faced with difficulties it has been responsible in its approach. In 1965, 1966 and 1967, the period when the very low export prices were operating, it came to the Commonwealth Government and what did it do? It sought only loans which it undertook to reply. It asked only for the amount which would enable millers and growers to get almost a subsistence living in order to carry on this great industry. I think it is worthy of note that this Government did come to the assistance of the industry with a loan of some $23m which was to be repaid with interest over a period of 10 years at the rate of $3m per annum, the first repayment being made this year. This was arranged at the time of the loan and the sugar industry is honouring the agreement to repay the loan.
I wish to make this point in relation to the sugar industry. If the industry was not in a reasonably prosperous state it could not afford the concessions it is giving to the fruit industry under this Bill. It has to be in a reasonably prosperous or viablestate to enable it to make the concessions. The industry is again acting responsibly, as it always has. In 1967 the industry applied for a rise in the home consumption price of sugar and this was approved only after a thorough investigation of costs. The Government agreed to an increase of 1.5c per lb, or.15 per cent. It was the first rise in the home consumption price since 1960. This also, of course, indicates the degree to which the industry through its efficiency has absorbed costs which have increased so much over that period. Generally speaking, it is not as well known as it might be throughout this country that the industry makes available to the processors of export products approved for domestic rebate, sugar at the lowest possible price. What a tremendous benefit that is to the fruit industry. This is something for which the sugar industry should be given very great credit. There is no doubt that while these concessions continue, the fruit industry, including the canned fruit industry, will benefit. My colleague the honourable member for Mallee (Mr Turnbull) understands the marketing problems of the fruit industry and appreciates the value of that industry to Australia.
In Queensland the deciduous fruit industry is located largely in the Stanthorpe district. I have very strongly supported the establishment of a cannery in that area despite the fact that there are some marketing problems. I have never been one to look at the development of an industry or its progress or prosperity only in relation to the economics of the day. I look at it over the broad aspect. Despite the problems which confront us in relation to marketing, as indeed they have confronted us in the marketing of many other products, 1 believe the establishment of a cannery would be a very good move and the industry would benefit from the concessions which are granted. It would be another outlet for sugar in the State where the greatest production of sugar in the Commonwealth takes place, even though the sugar would be made available at a concessional rate.
Some mention has been made, and I think it is reasonable to make a passing reference to it, of the concern that has been expressed in regard to the industry should Britain join the European Common Market. Approximately 400,000 tons of sugar is supplied to that market and 335,000 tons are supplied on satisfactory terms under the Commonwealth Sugar Agreement. If that outlet is taken away, alternative markets for that sugar will have to be found. If that market is taken away and alternative markets are not provided it will lessen the capacity of the sugar industry to provide these concessions, lt will lessen the capacity of the industry to play its part in the national economy. So I believe it is vital that we look very closely at this and if the United Kingdom does enter the European Common Market let us hope that the phasing out of the agreement that has been made will take place over as long a period as possible. This is the very least that the United Kingdom Government owes to Australia. It should give us time perhaps to be able to increase the quotas which are allowed under the International Sugar Agreement.
I also want to refer to the price of sugar in Australia in comparison with the price of sugar in at least some of the major industrial countries of the world. Sugar is sold here at a lower price, as has been pointed out, and this needs emphasising because the sugar growers and the industry itself have had to carry some criticism in that regard. It has been said that sugar should be made available to consumers in Australia at a lower price than it has been. If we look at the figures which have been given, and I will not repeat them, showing our price in comparison with that in many nations it will be seen that this criticism is not warranted.
I want to pay what I consider a well deserved tribute to the way that the industry has been handled, lt is efficient. There has been a good deal of criticism of the governments concerned in relation to the expansion which took place in the sugar industry, but I think that today there would be very few people who would not agree that this was a justifiable expansion. It was of benefit to Queensland and Australia and even if the future holds some problems surely we will not take a frightened approach to any of these developments in Australia. We certainly must approach the matter sensibly, but we should not do nothing simply because there are some problems facing us in the future. We will face those problems and they can and, I hope, will be overcome. I believe if it had not been for that expansion we would not have’ this industry as prosperous as it is today. The point has already been made, and justifiably, that the International Sugar Agreement is of tremendous value to the industry. If we do not have that Agreement we do not have a prosperous industry and if we do not have a prosperous industry we cannot give these concessions to help our sister industry, the fruit industry. We should not forget the part played by the present Minister for Trade and Industry (Mr Anthony) and his predecessor in office, in conjunction with officials of the sugar industry, in the 1968 negotiations which -resulted in such a successful agreement being reached for the industry.
The world price of sugar is approximately £Stg50 a ton. It was £Stg.l2 or £Stg 13 some 3 years ago. Who could have predicted that? If we had asked people 2 or 3 years ago to say whether the price would rise to the present level who would have been prepared to forecast that this was to be the case? We do not want to approach this matter with too much timidity. The industry has shown its capacity to overcome the problems and I am sure that, whatever might happen in the future, it will overcome the problems it faces now and which it will meet as time goes on. There is a reasonable level of prosperity in the sugar industry today: It is true that it has many costs over which it has no control. I very sincerely hope that those costs will not be increased in the immediate future by the introduction of a 35-hour week. 1 believe that at this stage this is something which the sugar industry and other primary industries cannot afford. I hope honourable members on the Opposition side will fake note of the burden that it would place on the sugar industry and that they will be able to persuade their Party leaders to take a more responsible attitude towards this aspect of costs in primary industry.
I wanted to say a bit more but the matter has been fairly well covered. I have emphasised some of the points mentioned previously and there are a few more things I could have referred to that were mentioned in the speech made by the spokesman for the Opposition on this Bill. I am pleased to note that there are areas of agreement on the attitude taken. I am very concerned about costs and I mentioned the major factor in them which I think could have a detrimental effect on the sugar industry and its capacity to provide concessions, particularly to the fruit industry and in relation to certain sugar products. It is a matter of very great pleasure and interest to the people of Queensland generally to know that the price has reached a stage where the industry will prosper. I hope this will continue and thereby enable the industry to continue its job for Queensland and Australia. It helps the fruit industry and other export industries. They will benefit by the agreement on. these matters made between the Commonwealth and the State of Queensland.
-! join with my colleagues in supporting the. measure before the House. It ratifies the agreement between the Commonwealth and the Queensland Government to regulate the production and marketing of sugar within the Commonwealth for a 5-year period from 1st July 1969. This Bill was presented to the Parliament on 4th March last year. I join with my colleague in saying that much water has passed under the bridge since then. However, we still find ourselves in very little disagreement over it. It is a historical fact that the Australian Labor Party has supported these sugar measures since the first of such agreements was drawn up between the Queensland Government and the Commonwealth Government. They bring a measure of stability to an industry which is vital to the eastern coast of Queensland.
The first such agreement was drawn up in September 1915 by the T. J. Ryan Government of Queensland and the Fisher Commonwealth Government. It is worth recalling some of the views expressed by people at that time who were the forebears of those now in government. Through the process of evolution even socialistic schemes have the approval of some of the people sitting opposite. We might wonder what the position will be in another 30 years. Some of the things that have been described as socialistic by them might gain their approval. Tn 30 years’ time perhaps even people like the honourable member for Mitchell (Mr Irwin) will see some good in schemes such as that covering the Australian Wool Commission. It is worth pointing out that the then Leader of the Opposition, Sir Joseph Cook, claimed that the first of these sugar measures was introduced to carry out the Labor Party’s programme of socialism. To a great extent the sugar industry is a socialised industry because production is controlled and there is a guaranteed price for local consumption. There is also a guaranteed price in export areas. Sugar was being imported at the time of the original agreement. New agreements were negotiated from time to time and there was a guaranteed price for a considerable portion of the export market. This situation continued.
As the demand for sugar rose both at home and abroad and more markets were found the industry expanded. In my electorate of Wide Bay there are 7 sugar mills and therefore the people I represent have a definite interest in this Agreement. The engineering works in the cities of Bundaberg and Maryborough have played an important part in producing machinery for the harvesting of sugar cane and the milling of sugar. They have contributed to our export income by exporting machines. Until a short time ago the industry was labour intensive, but the situation has changed completely with the advent of mechanisation. Now the cane cutter is a figure of the past. In former years many of the towns in the sugar areas had a high influx of workers during the crushing season, but now many have a very small boom period. However, this has brought a measure of stability to them.
T find myself in some disagreement with the honourable member for Maranoa (Mr Corbett) over his reference to the criticism about expansion in the sugar industry. I believe that the Queensland Government should have taken heed of the cane growers who suggested that the expansion should be developed over a number of years instead of immediately. The immediate expansion eventually threw the industry into a certain amount of chaos from which it has not completely recovered.
I agree that the industry has been able to provide our fruit canning industry with a certain amount of assistance. It is pleasing to note that on this occasion the amount of rebate will be increased to $15 a ton. This rebate is allowed by the Fruit Industry Concession Committee to processors of Australian fruit for home consumpion as well as export.
I said before that this industry is an example to other industries. It has set a pattern for them to follow in the field of controlled production and controlled returns. These agreements have contributed to a large extent to the stability within the industry which has been recognised worldwide for its efforts to contain costs and improve production by the development of new species and new methods in order to get higher yields per acre and higher results from milling. lt is interesting to dwell on the fact that this industry is controlled. There are controlled production and controlled returns for the home market and for the export market. Wages within the industry are controlled. 1 can assure the honourable member for Maranoa that decisions on wages are not in the hands of the Australian Labor Party. They will be in the hands of the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission, lt will make decisions on the prosperity of the industry at the time as it has done in the past on the ability of the industry to pay wages. It is the machinery side which is not controlled. I earnestly suggest to honourable members on the Government side that they give some thought to the question of controlling the cost of spare parts and fertilisers, because it is these things which are adding to the cost to the producers in an industry that has played a large part in establishing the European population on the east coast of Australia. I think all honourable members are aware that in the early days it was thought that this was not an industry in which Europeans could take part. It was thought that they could nol cultivate and harvest sugar. It has been proved adequately that they can do this work, so much so that the services of many Queenslanders engaged in various sections of the industry have been sought by developing countries to give assistance to those countries and to show them our methods of production so that they might benefit from our experiences. I have very much pleasure in supporting the Bill, firstly as a Queenslander, and secondly, because as an Australian 1 know the value of the sugar industry to this nation.
– Having had a great deal to do with the sugar industry in a minister,al capacity, I want to commend the Bill before the House and also the continuation, with some amendments, of the Sugar Agreement between the Commonwealth and Queensland Governments. I commend those Governments for working together so well and so persistently over a period of years to reach agreement on the International Sugar Agreement. Included in the deputation to the talks on the Agreement were Commonwealth and Queensland Government representatives and also representatives from the sugar industry. Had it not been for the persistence of the Australian delegation I do not think that we would have an International Sugar . Agreement today. Agreement was not reached at the first or second series of talks, but the Australian delegation persisted in its fight to obtain the stability in the price of sugar overseas which we now enjoy.
I was Minister for Primary Industry at the time when the early negotiations on the International Sugar Agreement took place. The price of refined sugar then was as low as £17 10s a ton. and it was obvious that no industry could operate economically with the price of sugar at that level. The industry could not produce a refined product at that price. The Australian delegation persisted and obtained help from some of the other sugar producing countries, and eventually a new International Sugar Agreement was finalised. The Agreement has had its effect. The price of. sugar has risen Vo as high as £53 a ton. and today I think it is approximately £50 a ton. That, together with the domestic price for sugar in Australia, has given an equalised price. I would not call it an overpaid price, but it is a much more satisfactory price than obtained in earlier years. So 1 pay a tribute to the sugar industry and to the Commonwealth and Queensland Governments for their co-operation and persistence.
The industry is in effect self-governed. The honourable member for Wide Bay (Mr Hansen) used a term with which 1 do not agree. He said that the industry almost could be called a socialised industry. In no sense is it a socialised industry. If I understand the term ‘socialised’, it means controlled by the State or country. This industry certainly is industry controlled. The 2 organisations and their respective committees, which fortunately work together very well, meet regularly and consult with the State and Commonwealth Governments before any decisions are made. The honourable member -for Dawson (Dr Patterson) referred lo the price of sugar. The price of sugar >is always reached after consultation with the Commonwealth and Queensland Governments, and 1 have yet to see an industry more efficient in the presentation of a case than is the sugar industry. The sugar industry places every fact and detail, before the Governments so that the Governments can readily assess what they think is a fair price for sugar. That has been the approach which the industry has adopted over the years.
When the sugar industry was in difficulties because the overseas price of sugar was low and accordingly the equalised price was not payable, the industry approached the Commonwealth Government. Again it demonstrated that it was a responsible industry, lt did not ask for grants; it asked for loans. It accepted the responsibility for repaying those loans and is meeting those commitments today. The Commonwealth Government agreed not to charge interest on the loans for the first 3 years, and this was one form of assistance which this Government has given to the sugar industry. The honourable member for Dawson also referred to the increase in costs over the years. Obviously I agree with his statement that the best way to meet increased costs is to increase production.
The Commonwealth Government has given further assistance to the sugar industry in that regard, lt has provided subsidies on nitrogenous fertiliser* which are the main fertilisers used in the sugar industry. I note from the Budget papers that those subsidies are estimated to cost Si 0.5m this financial, year. The Government also has provided subsidies amounting to $46m a year on phosphate fertiliser which, in the main, is used in the southern States. That fertiliser is not used to any great extent in Queensland. Nitrogenous fertilisers are in the main fertilisers used in the sugar and pineapple industries in Queensland. This measure of assistance has enabled the sugar industry to increase production. The Commonwealth Government has provided further assistance to the sugar industry by way of devaluation compensation payments, and the Budget papers indicate that $5. 5m ‘ have been provided for this purpose. Sp like other primary industries, the sugar industry is riot receiving lesser payments for its product because of Britain’s devaluation, of sterling.
The sugar industry has helped itself. It has improved its efficiency .by introducing greater mechanisation and by establishing its own research stations. When the industry was confronted with industrial trouble and could not ship its product south, it decided to make the industry thoroughly efficient by the erection of bulk sugar loading terminals throughout the sugar areas. When the price of sugar increased to a record level some years ago the industry again adopted a responsible approach and retained a considerable amount of the money received in that period and subsequently used it for constructing bulk sugar loading terminals. So all I can do is to commend the industry for its efficiency, for the way in which it has co-operated with the Commonwealth and Queensland governments and for the way in which it is facing up to its responsibilities.
Reference was made to the expansion of sugar producing areas. Of course, the decision to expand those areas was made by the industry and the Queensland Government. The Queensland Government set up a committee of inquiry under the chairmanship of a judge, and that committee recommended the expansion of sugar producing areas. 1 have always stated my position on this matter, even when I was Minister for Primary industry. I believe that it was a very good thing that the industry expanded as it did at that time because its expansion provided a solid basis for the industry to get a much larger quota under the International Sugar Agreement. 1 know that this expansion caused certain problems at the time. These problems resulted from the low free world price, which did not give the industry a satisfactory equalised price. However, as a result of the Government’s persistence in securing an international agreement, things have worked out very satisfactorily. I hope that the industry will continue to operate satisfactorily in the future. I am sure that the industry is happy with the fact that it has a much larger world quota under the International Sugar Agreement than it would have if it had not expanded.
The main difference between this Agreement and the previous Agreement is the threefold commitment by the sugar industry to the fruit growing industry. The Fruit Industry Sugar Concession Committee is a responsible body. Although it is not responsible to the Government for the decisions it makes it is thoroughly representative of the sugar and fruit growing industries, lt consists of representatives of the Commonwealth Government, the Queensland Sugar Board, growers of canning fruits, growers of non-canning fruits, the co-operative and State manufacturers of fruit products and the proprietary manufacturers of fruit products. The Committee has conducted its activities in a very satisfactory manner.
The sugar industry is in actual fact making a contribution to the fruit industry because the Government in ils wisdom, having regard to the fact that the sugar industry is totally protected from imports considered it necessary to assist the fruit industry. The fruit industry has been assisted to a great degree. If it were not for the fact that purchasers of fruit have to pay the price determined by the Committee if they want to receive the subsidy, there would be really no stability of price in the fruit industry. A twofold purpose is being served. The sugar industry is being totally protected against imports and, by its contribution to the fruit industry, price stability is being created. I know that at times there have been differences of opinion between the members of the Committee, but things generally work out very satisfactory. The fruit growers are able to sell quite reasonable quantities at a satisfactory price.
I refer now to the question of local prices. It is only fair, of course, that the contribution made by the sugar industry should be - T think it is - taken into consideration in determining the local price. I feel quite sure that if, having regard to increases in the cost of living and in various other fields of operation, it is necessary to increase the price, the sugar industry will do what it has done in the past and give a complete table of figures and assessments to prove its point. I hope that the government of the day - whether it be this Government or any other government - will be as sympathetic to the industry as governments have been in the past. The sugar industry is a commendable, efficient, self governing industry. Tt is an industry which has given its entire cooperation to the Queensland and Commonwealth governments. The industry is in turn glad that these governments have been so co-operative in every sense and have given the forms of assistance I have mentioned.
Problems will always arise, but there is less industrial trouble in the sugar industry nowadays because the industry has taken action to mee! its own responsibilities in regard to transporting its product to the capital cities and other centres to which sugar is transported under this agreement. There is no trouble in that regard because of the innovation of bulk loading. However, I hope that the cost burden will not increase. In this regard 1 support the comments of the honourable member for Maranoa (Mr Corbett). I hope that the policy of the Australian Labor Party or any other party will not inflict added costs by virtue of a 35-hour week. No industry - particularly one on the land - could stand up to this added burden at the present time. 1 commend the - Government for introducing this Bill and I commend the industry for its efficiency.
– lt gives me pleasure to affirm and commend the remarks which have been made in this debate by my predecessors on this side of the House namely, the honourable member for Dawson (Dr Patterson) and the honourable member for Wide Bay (Mr Hansen), whose electorates adjoin my own. I wish first of all to reiterate briefly and expand upon one or two of the points which they made. The first point is in relation to the question of the costs in the industry. It is true that 2 of the commonest complaints that cane growers make about costs are concerning fertiliser and spare parts for machinery. The racket, shall I say. in spare parts is not confined to rural industries; it is world-wide. For example, the Japanese sell a very cheap motor scooter in South East Asia, but if one were to make a similar motor scooter from the spare parts which they sell one would be paying 10 times as much. This sort of thing has become common practice in machinery manufacture. Once one can get somebody to buy one’s machine by selling it cheaper one can. recoup the difference by selling the spare parts at a dearer price than they should be. The position has got to the stage where the sort of regulation tb/at members on both sides of the House have been describing in the sugar industry is necessary.
The honourable member for Maranoa (Mr Corbett) and the right honourable member for Fisher (Mr Adermann) said that they do not accept -the fact that the sugar industry is a socialised industry. I think this is vital to our consideration not only of stability in rural industries in particular but also of the inflationary problems we are facing. It involves the application of subsidy and tariff provisions in industries other than rural industries. I think 1 should clarify the concept of socialisation. Socialisation does not mean, as the honourable member for Fisher suggested, state control of industry. This is not a definition in any dictionary that I know of, including any political dictionary or encyclopaedia. Socialisation means social control. If a person wants to talk of state control or country control he calls it nationalisation or state capitalism. Socialisation means control by the society in the interests of the society, and this is exactly what we see in the sugar industry.
The honourable member for Fisher described it as control by the industry, but he spoke also of the co-operation of the industry with governments. He stressed it. The fact is that there is not control by the industry; there is a partnership between producers and the representatives of the consumers. That is the acme of Socialism and that is what the Australian Labor Party stands for. This is the only human approach to any industry. If it is to be run in the interests of a bureaucracy, of a party in power, of a government, of investors in the industry or of consumers without regard to the people involved, it is something which is known as ‘capitalism’ or ‘Communism’. It certainly is not Socialism because it is not controlled by interested people in the society in the interests of society. So let us get that straight.
The stability of this industry is not just due to co-operation in an economic sense but to co-operation in a human sense. We look at the needs of growers and of people involved in the industry as well as of consumers. The question of the 35-hour week was raised by 2 of our friends from the Country Party who appealed to members of the Opposition to use their good offices with the employees in the industry so that the employees should not push for a 35- hour week. The honourable member for Wide Bay answered this by pointing out that this is a matter for arbitration - for a decision as to when and how an industry can afford to provide rates of pay and conditions rather than a matter for a Labor Party government to pass legislation and say: ‘You must work such hours and under such conditions.’ As a matter of fact, to some extent, if a government did legislate for a 35-hour week in any particular industry the rates of pay would still find their own level. It does not matter terribly much if a person is cutting cane for 20 hours a week or 50 hours a week because his rate of efficiency may actually be greater per hour if he is working a 20-hour, week and getting paid overtime for the balance than working a 50 or 60-hour week. This is not a vital point as such. I agree, and my Party agrees, that to introduce a 35-hour week into any rural industry now would be disastrous and wrong. It would not help the employees, the consumers or the employers. We have not advocated a 35-hour week as a means of solving the problems of rural industry because we know it can contribute nothing at this stage in history.
We have already discussed the question of efficiency in the industry and 1 think that all sides of the Parliament are agreed that it is a highly efficient industry in terms of productivity per man hour and in terms of the price of the finished product on world markets. It has been almost unique in proving that the white man can produce in the tropics a product under labour intensive conditions which are, of course, being phased out with the great technical innovations in the industry. But it is not only a matter of technical development and innovation: it is, to a large extent, also a matter of the philosophy which drove the workers in that industry when it was labour intensive to compete fairly in conditions of free competition.
Sitting suspended from 12.45 to 2.15 p.m.
– Prior to the suspension of the sitting I pointed out how the sugar industry is a model of socialisation - that is, not national ownership, not national dictation, but control by the people involved, the consumers and their elected representatives co-operating with the producers for the welfare of society as a whole - and how it is a model for all other industries to follow. We in the Labor Party have been strenuously advocating, as basic Labor Party philosophy, such a system as the only answer to problems of price inflation and others with which we are particularly concerned today. To drive home the point that such a system is a means of controlling price inflation, we have only to cast our minds back to what speakers on the Government side said when they stressed the price stabilising effect of the co-operative planning in the industry. They stressed not only that there is price-fixing for the products sold on the home market but also that there is international planning of prices in co-operation with consumers and producers throughout the world. What is more, as we can see from the schedule to the Bill, clause 8C, the price fixing extends even to the related fruit industry.’
Concessions from the yugar industry to the fruit industry are dependent upon reasonable prices in that fruit industry. The logical step to take would be to extend the system to all the other related industries, and to extend it to the prices, about which the farmers are complaining, of fertilisers, of spare parrs and of machinery. One of the biggest pities about the position in the machinery market is that the farmers cannot rely on the quality of the local product. Although these farmers are pioneers in evolving better machinery - they are giving ideas to the machinery industry - they have to “buy from overseas markets. The industry in the United States of America is looking at our cane harvesters and other equipment, yet the farmers cannot get the Australian machinery manufacturing firms to make products as reliable as the ones that they can import from the United States of America. They cannot get the service and the reliability, so they are paying enormous tariffs to get machinery from overseas.
This is not the American method of doing things. The Bell and Howell firm, which manufactures home movie equipment, used to have the bulk of the world market. I am citing what the firm did, to contrast its enterprise with the lack of initiative in the farm machinery industry in Australia. The Bell and Howell firm found that the Japanese were undercutting that firm and selling a higher quality product more cheaply. Foremen ,and heads of departments were called together and told that the .firm would go out of business unless lt could produce a machine that threaded the film, had a zoom lens and so on. About 20 features that had to be built into this home movie equipment to recover the firm’s lost place on the world market were enumerated. Each of the heads of the departments said that it could be done. They were told that the product must sell for less than $50. They held up their hands in horror and said that they could not do it. Within 3 months they were doing it.
This is the lesson that I think Australian secondary industries should take not only from secondary industry in America but from our own rural industry which is fighting, with very little support, the pressures of inflation and so-called over-production. Our secondary industries must become as efficient as the sugar industry so that tariffs can be phased out without putting people out of work or without causing more dislocation than there is at present. Australians can do this. Again I point to the labourintensive position of the industry which I was discussing prior to the suspension of the sitting. Europeans proved that they could compete in the tropics, doing hard work, with people of other races who were thought to be the only ones capable of cutting cane. Our cane cutters worked on a piecework or contract basis. The teams were paid according to the amount of cane they cut. The teams policed the efficiency of members of the teams. If a person wanted to be a member of a good team, he had to work well. This was the basis of efficiency. This was a kind of free competition.
This is done in America on a far wider scale in many other industries. It is done in the coal industry. The coal miners in the United States produce twice as many tons per shift - about 14 tons per shift as against 7 tons per shift here and about 1 ton per shift in the Soviet Union. Similar results can be achieved here if these types of criteria is adopted. It will be said that this is sweated labour and that we do not want to go back to the days of sweated labour in cane cutting or mining or any other industry. Of course we do not. We want men who are not able to compete openly in the intense cut-throat conditions of open competition.
– We all remember the days of Kanaka labour.
– The honourable member referred to the days of Kanaka labour. We do not want a return to those days. We do not want sweated labour, but we want reasonable competition, with protection for those who fall toy the wayside, so that they are not cast on the scrap heap of the unemployment market. I know that I have strayed a little wide of the contents of the Bill, but I have merely given an illustration of a suitable industrial policy which has been adopted in the sugar industry.
The Bundaberg area produces 16 per cent of Australia’s sugar, lt is one of the traditional sugar-producing areas and it is one of the longest and best established areas, but it gets the least benefit from irrigation. At least two-thirds of the area is dependent upon reasonable seasons, yet it has the most unreliable and most unpredictable seasons of any of the sugar-growing areas. It falls, as it were, between 2 stools, between the dependable monsoon rains in the north and the dependable winter rains in the south. It is in the in-between area, and producers have been changing over to beef production, which can stand a couple of dry seasons. The pattern in central Queensland is not that of the odd drought that lasts a year or so, which is so devastating in the southern States, but of 3 dry years in every 10. When these 3 dry years follow each other or when half a dozen follow each other, as they have in the last decade, this can be disastrous. Therefore it is more urgent there than anywhere in Australia to spread the effects of rainfall and drought, particularly in industries which cannot stand 24 months or more without a decent wet season. Therefore it is most urgent that the area have a water conservation scheme. I reiterate what I said when the Commonwealth made money available for the Bundaberg irrigation scheme. It is most urgent that the project be extended to encompass the whole scheme requested by the Queensland Government and that the scheme be not a piecemeal one. There are some avenues in which we think we can save money by reducing government expenditure but which in fact involve us in expenditure whether we make purchases or not. One example is water conservation and another is education. If we are to cut down on some of these essential long range projects we will have to pay for them over and over again because of the shortsightedness of saving money this year or for the next few years.
– The only comment which I want to make about the speech of the honourable member for Capricornia (Dr Everingham) concerns what he said about the Bundaberg irrigation scheme - that all facets of the scheme should be put into operation. I would draw the attention of the House to the fact that an important weir - perhaps not as important at this stage as those projects associated with the development of the IsisKolanBundaberg area - is proposed to be built adjacent to Gayndah. I hope that the Queensland Government does not push that project into the background. The Prime Minister (Mr Gorton) has said that there is no necessity for any drastic or fundamental change to the existing Agreement. He said that the new agreement will follow the traditional lines of other agreements. 1 think that this state of affairs is a tribute to the work and dedication, particularly on Australia’s part, that has gone into the formulation of .international sugar agreements. Full tribute should be paid in particular to the epic performance of Sir John McEwen 2 years ago at Geneva. Also, a tribute should be paid to the present Minister for Trade arid Industry (Mr Anthony) for the impact that he made in London a few years ago.
When, we consider the domestic side of operations we cannot forget men such as Mr McEvoy and members of the Queensland Cane Growers Association. These men do a tremendous job. I think that when we consider an agreement of this nature it is interesting to look at some of the standards which have been created in this great industry. These standards are quite diverse. Apart from the quality of the cane grown and the efficiency of the industry in the great State of Queensland one facet is inclined lo be overlooked. I refer to the tremendous contribution which this industry has made towards the settlement and development of the northern part of this continent and particularly the north coast of Queensland. It was assumed prior to the growth of this industry that only people of non-European descent could settle and work in the tropics and in areas such as the north coast of Queensland. However, it was soon proved by the early settlers who developed this great industry that Europeans could not only settle in areas such as these but also could develop a great industry and provincial towns and cities into something of which this continent can well be proud.
Another standard was created in the sugar industry. 1 am talking here of the industrial side of the industry. I suppose that some of the greatest industrial advances were made by strong healthy militant agitation on the part of the cane cutters and others associated with this industry. Some of the great figures in the unions in Queensland, and perhaps more particularly in the Australian Workers Union, learnt their trade the hard way on the canefields of northern and central Queensland. Perhaps the importance of the job that the cane cutter does has slipped a little into the background these days. With the development of new implements and machinery for harvesting cane we tend to forget the early Australians and nonAustralians who had the backbreaking task of harvesting cane manually.
I think it would be in order for me again to refer to another standard that was created by the sugar industry. That was the assimilation of non-Australians or nonAngloSaxon people - I refer particularly to Italians. Italians came into the sugar growing areas and they were assimilated; they grew up in these areas. We can remember one or two early attempts by their Black Hand organisation to establish itself in the Innisfail-Ingham area. This attempt failed dismally because of the excellent work of Inspector Quin and those associated with him at that time.
-Order! This is very interesting but it does not seem to have much to do with the Bill. Could I remind the honourable member that this happens to be a Bill about an agreement relating to the price for sugar. The honourable member should get back to the subject matter.
– Reference is made in the Agreement to the embargo on the importation of sugar and sugar products such as golden syrup and treacle. . Here again, Mr Speaker, I hope I am in order because I have a very important point to enlarge upon in relation to this matter. I believe that this is a most commendable point which once again shows the standard tha’ has been created by the operations of this great industry. I would most sincerely hope that the meat industry and the Australian Meat Board will closely examine the effects of this embargo and apply it irrevocably and ruthlessly to the importation of synthetic meat. Mr Speaker, 1 hope I am nol getting oft the track.
– I think you are. I suggest that you come back to the Bill.
– Agreements such as this have given a stability to the industry. As I said before, this industry has helped to create some of the great northern towns and cities in Queensland, lt has led to the establishment of an industry of which Queensland is extremely proud, and if 1 might say so with a little bit of parochial pride, it has set an example to the rest of Australia.
– There is not a great deal that I wish to add to the contributions made by honourable members in the debate this afternoon. The honourable member for Dawson (Dr Patterson), on behalf of the Opposition, raised the question of the constitutional capacity of the embargo continuing until such a stage as the Parliament itself has considered whether the agreement should be ratified. I am advised that the position is that in fact the present embargo was applied by the Sugar Agreement Act 1962 and that this embargo remains in force until Parliament has considered the present Bill. For that reason it is not a question of the Parliament imposing an embargo by means of an agreement that has not been ratified but the maintenance of an existing embargo which was applied under a previously passed Act.
The only other thing I would say is that I support completely references to the significant contribution that the sugar industry has made to the development of north Queensland. I would also like to say how highly efficiently this industry is being run. Indeed, I think it is a great tribute to this industry that it has made, through the Fruit Industry Sugar Concession Committee, such a contribution to another industry - an industry which as far as canned fruits are concerned is passing through a time of some economic difficulty. The provision covering this contribution is contained in clauses 7 and 8 of the agreement which is attached to the schedule to the Bill. Here is set down in some detail a very worthwhile form of assistance provided by the sugar industry to another industry, all of which testifies to the efficacy of the operation of the sugar industry. I am glad that the Bill has received the support of all honourable members of this House and I commend it.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Leave granted for third reading to be moved forthwith.
Bill (on motion by Mr Sinclair) read a third time.
Debate resumed from 4 March (vide page 81), on motion by Mr Malcolm Fraser:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
– The Defence Pay Bill is a rather curious measure. In a moment 1 shall indicate why. The Bill is described as a Bill to validate certain payments made to or in respect of members of the Defence Force and to persons employed in a civil capacity under the Naval Defence Act 1910-1952 or under that Act as amended. The Bill seeks to validate certain sums of money which were paid to members of the Navy, the Army and the Air Force mostly in the period from 196.1 to 1963 with the exception of some payments which were made to a limited number of civilian employees in the Navy up to 19th June 1969. If it were not for this validating legislation, in a technical sense the payments could be described as unlawful. I shall indicate the sense in which they are unlawful by quoting some remarks which were made by the First Parliamentary Counsel. Mr Ewens, in the course of cross-examination before the Joint Committee on Public Accounts. I refer to the 50th report of the Public Accounts Committee which was tabled in 1960. I stress how far back this situation goes and how long it has taken to reach the stage of now validating the payments.
Mr Ewens is reported, in paragraph 39 at page 13 of the printed report, as having said:
It is nol unlawful in the sense that there is any criminal action on which a prosecution can be taken, but it is unlawful in the sense that the money was paid without authority because a legal basis for the payment did not exist, and to thai extent it was made without lawful authority.
He further said: . . the word ‘unlawful’ is rather ambiguous. No-one suggests that there has been any criminality in what has been done in this instance. No-one could be charged with an offence. But in the circumstances 1 have mentioned there is no doubt that in strict law the payments are made without a complete chain of legal authority, and to that extent they are unlawful.
The amounts aggregate a sum of $50m. I for one was rather surprised how the payments had reached a sum of that magnitude when I looked at the sorts of items they were supposed to cover. The payments were only amounts over and above existing allowances for overseas outfit allowances, overseas allowances for short term duty, overseas transit allowances, overseas living out allowances, child allowances, school expenses, overseas rental allowances, and representation and entertainment allowances. In another category the allowances were for scale of clothing and necessaries; replacement of initial issues - whatever they are supposed to be; scale of issues - rations; and scale of issues - fuel, light and stores. A further category covered the following payments: Good conduct badge pay; something described as hard-lying money, whatever hard-lying money is supposed to be; rent for Service residences issue of uniform kit; mileage allowances; short term duty travelling allowances; and removal of furniture and effects.
As honourable members know, there is what is described as subordinate legislation or the power to do certain things by regulation. We all know that certain Acts provide that regulations in accordance with or in the spirit of the Act may be gazetted. It is because of that sort of circumstance that this situation has arisen. The first matter to which I draw attention is the inordinate length of time which it took for this situation to be rectified. I point out that in 1960 - this is based on the AttorneyGeneral’s report for 1958-59- -the Public Accounts Committee drew attention to irregularities which existed in regulations for the Department of the Army, the Department of the Navy and the Department of Air. Apparently up to 1960 these irregularities were rectified but immediately the departments again slipped into the easy, method of making payments higher than those provided in the existing regulation without drawing a new regulation.
This was again drawn to the attention of the various departments by the Public Accounts Committee 4 years later. The Committee in its 65th report rightly drew attention to the fact that it had raised the matter 6 years before but the same sort of thing still seemed to be going on. At page 6, the 65th report states:
Compliance with the Law
The Prime Minister drew to the attention of Ministers the Committee’s recommendation in paragraph 77 (i) -
That paragraph is to be found in the 52nd report - and asked them lo bring to the notice of departmental officers the need lo comply with the law, to observe promptly legislative requirements and to keep their Ministers fully informed on these matters.
That was the position in 1964. One would think that after a second rebuke the offence would not be repeated. But as late as the 103rd report of the Public Accounts Committee, which was tabled in this House in 1968, we find reference to that situation. Paragraph 2. states:
The situation that Your Committee’s investigation disclosed caused grave concern. It found that the persistence with which the Departments of the Navy, Army and Air had pursued a course over many years of making unlawful payments to service personnel, had most important implications.
The Committee went on to point out what it recommended in 1964. That recommendation states:
We recommend also -
thai appropriate and early steps be taken by the Government so that Departments, in future -
will comply with the law;
will observe promptly legislative requirements; and
will keep their Ministers fully informed in these matters.
What is involved goes to the heart of parliamentary responsibility for expenditure. The excuse given was that there was not enough staff in the Parliamentary Counsel’s office and there were not enough competent people within the departments to properly draft the subordinate legislation. Also there seemed to be a disposition on the part of departmental heads to draw regulations without consulting their Ministers. When the regulations went to the then Attorney-General he rightly suggested that they were matters of policy rather than matters of day to day administration and he would not draw them unless they had the authority of the Minister. To my mind, this sort of thing is rather serious particularly when we find the Government today apparently regarding it as quite a bright move in the current circumstances for what are called economic reasons not to employ 2,500 skilled people representing the cream of the people coming out of our institutions at which higher levels of education are provided.
Although it has been pointed out that nobody can be accused of having acted criminally with respect to the matter dealt with by the Bill, in a parliamentary and constitutional sense the payments made are unlawful. They are unlawful presumably because not enough people competent to draw the regulations in the right way are available in the Department. I suppose that a person can play a bit with some of the heads of expenditure and the items under which payments have been made, taking into account the variety of Service grades, types of duty, and questions of supply, serving outside the country, serving inside it and so on. I can appreciate that, in the forces, this is a complex enough field. But taking into account the fact that sums as great in magnitude as $50m can be regarded as being unlawfully paid, I suggest that it is time that the matter was looked at more closely than has been the case.
This measure, as I say, operates mainly with respect to payments which were made as far back as 1963. The payments were made mostly between 1961 and 1963. I must confess that no detail has been given in the second reading speech delivered by the Minister for Defence (Mr Malcolm Fraser) as to how these amounts are made up among the various items that I have listed or in what years most of the items fell. Simply round figures have been provided. Again, they are similar to the kinds of figures which were given to this House last night or the night before by the Prime Minister (Mr Gorton) to justify cer tain measures that are being taken. They are bald figures without any detail. If people are able in a sense to make unlawful payments of the magnitude of $50m, how will it be possible to achieve within the various departments some of the cuts proposed by the Prime Minister when the Government chooses to implement them?
I submit that this sort of treatment of these large sums of money is not good enough. The attention of the Parliament has been drawn to this matter by one of its committees. I for one applaud the work of the Joint Standing Committee of Public Accounts. I was a member of this Committee until 1956. Whilst I cannot claim to read all its reports, because it seems to me to be one of the most hard-working committees in the Parliament, nevertheless, when I see a title of a report by this Committee concerning an inquiry into certain fields of interest to me I do read that report.
When this Committee points to certain difficulties - and these are difficulties of administration and of management rather than of dishonesty or peculation - I think that the observations of the Committee ought to be carried out. This does not seem to be the case here. I do not think that the Minister for Defence who introduced this Bill is here when we are debating it. This seems to me to be a casual way of transacting business. I suppose that it is all right to say that the incidents leading to the introduction of this Bill happened years ago. Well, if they happened years ago, why did it take so long to validate these actions.
With all respect, I do not think that any explanation has been given as to what happened in the past, nor do I think that any explanation has been given to show that the same sort of thing cannot happen again. It seems to me that the vast numbers of regulations that do need to be made simply pile up and payments to be authorised by those regulations are made on the presumption that the regulations will be passed anyway. So, the attitude is to pass the payments.
The example before us is a rather interesting one in one sense because these sums were within the parliamentary Estimates and yet, in another sense, they were unlawful.. A rather interesting comment is made on this point at page 13 of the Fiftieth Report of the Joint Committee of Public Accounts to which I referred earlier. Regarding the fact that Parliament had appropriated sufficient money to permit the payments, Mr Ewens said:
In giving the opinion that 1 have submitted to the Committee, I considered carefully the question whether the payments could be considered as authorised by reason of the fact that Parliament had apparently appropriated enough money to make these payments at rates above the rates set out in the regulations, and after a lot of careful thought about that I came to the conclusion that, notwithstanding that appropriation, the payments were nevertheless made without authority. … Of course, no Treasurer, or no Minister, can set aside the law, and if the true position is that under the Defence Act the rates of pay have to be prescribed by regulations, then they have to be prescribed by the regulations, and no other authority er person has any jurisdiction to say otherwise. I think that answers the question.
I think that we ought to be thankful that there are people like Mr Ewens who have some respect for the authority of Parliament, whatever deficiencies may exist within administrative levels.
I suggest that this is a serious matter. When 1 spoke to members, of the Public Accounts Committee about this matter, I found that they were not even aware that this measure was before . the House. This seems to me to be a slight upon them. The courtesy of sending the legislation to them to show them that something was being done even if it was being done very late in the piece had not been extended to them. This Bill covers the period to 1969 only. The question that J still wish to ask is: Have any payments been made not only in the defence forces but in any of the ramifications of government between 1969 and 1971 under regulations’ which it is presumed will be gazetted but which have not yet been gazetted? 1 suggest that the Government ought to give some reply to that question.
I did not intend to say very much about this matter because it came to my notice only last night that T was supposed to be handling the Bil) because of the absence of one of my colleagues. When I read this legislation late last night, I had some inkling of what had happened in the Public Accounts Committee nearly 10 years ago. Through the services that are available, I was able to obtain copies of those reports. I thought- it relevant to mention to the
House what the Committee had suggested long ago and to indicate the very long period that has elapsed between the time when these matters were pointed out and the time of the presentation of the validating legislation, which is before us now.
But I also wish to inquire whether this gap has been closed finally so that, in the future, regulations on policy will not be made by permanent beads in an attempt to bypass the responsible Minister. The First Parliamentary Counsel was a good backstop in that respect. I ask further: Are regulations to be acted upon on the presumption that they will be passed? To me this way of getting around the protections that are supposed to reside in the authority of Parliament to disallow regulations is most serious.
– I thank the honourable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr Crean) for his careful analysis of this subject and the thorough manner in which he has dealt with it. One cannot say much with regard to this matter. We are presented with’ a fait accompli. We are asked to confirm payments made to personnel within the 3 Services and to civilians * employed therein after different formalities had been adopted.
I think the necessity for this Bill highlights 2 facets of Government administration. The first is the efficiency of the Auditor-General’s Department in detecting such unauthorised payments - I use the word ‘unauthorised’ rather than the word unlawful’ - even if such non-authorisation came about by a mere technicality or an omission to provide a regulation or by-law in its proper form to authorise payments for some time prior to the period mentioned in this legislation. The other facet is the care and authority that is necessary before public moneys can be expended. As I said, there is only one thing we can do in regard to this matter. I endorse the remarks of the honourable member for Melbourne Ports.
– I would like to raise a very important matter which is very intimately concerned with my electorate. Last year the increasing dissatisfaction* and frustration of servicemen over pay - and conditions were dramatised by 2 events. Royal Australian Navy personnel and Royal Australian Air Force personnel took what amounted to industrial action in dissatisfaction over pay, and their complaints received almost immediate attention from the Government. These 2 unprecedented examples of direct action by servicemen finally compelled the Government to take action on the question of pay and conditions by setting up the Kerr Committee.
– I rise to a point of order. I do not wish to intrude or give the impression of being pernickety, but I respectfully suggest that the honourable member in a very real sense is moving outside the scope of this Bill. The Bill seeks to validate action which has been taken. I submit it does not deal in explicit terms, for the purpose of debate, with the question of Service pay and conditions.
– I beg to differ.
-Order! The point of order is upheld. The scope of the Bill is very narrow and both honourable members who have spoken have confined themselves to the Bill. It seeks to validate payments that have been made to the Services. The purpose of the Bill does not allow a debate as to whether the payments are too high or too low. The Bill seeks only to validate payments that have already been made.
– I wish to speak to your ruling, Mr Speaker. The Bill states:
This Act may be cited as the Defence Pay Act.
My understanding is that over recent years we have decided that the definition set out in what is called the short title is the subject to which one can address oneself in the House. This is the Defence Pay Act. The honourable member for Bendigo is concerned with the pay of members of the defence forces. Frankly, I believe to rule in any other way-
-Order! My reading of the Bill is that it validates certain payments made to or in respect of members of the defence force and to persons employed in a civilian capacity. The Bill clearly states that its purpose is to validate payments already made.
– I rise to a point of order. If we are debating a Bill which validates payments, it is reasonable for the honourable member to put forward an argument as to why those payments should not be validated.
-I will agree with that, provided that his argument does not open up the whole question of pay and conditions. If there is some reason why this Bill should not be validated the Chair will listen to it. If the honourable member wants to discuss the whole question of pay and conditions he is out of order.
– I wish to refer to one situation which makes me very reluctant to vote for the passage of this Bill, because it reflects adversely upon -the Government. I was saying that these 2 unprecedented examples of direct action by servicemen finally compelled the Government to take action on the question of pay and conditions by establishing the Kerr Committee. However, this is only a partial solution to the whole problem. The demand for increased pay and better conditions of service is with us right now and the Government has shelved the urgent action which servicemen demand to meet their claims for satisfaction. Many of them see some advantage in the establishment and operation of the Committee, but the fundamental dissatisfaction over pay and conditions has been reinforced by the Government’s refusal to accept its responsibility
-Order! This Bill validates payments made to Service personnel between 1961 and 1966 and to civilian employees between 1961 and 1969. It does not deal with pay and conditions for this year or last year.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Leave granted for third reading to be moved forthwith.
– I move:
That the Bill be now read a third time.
The honourable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr Crean) asked 2 questions concerning this legislation. In the first place, he wants to know why there has been so much delay. The simple answer to the honourable gentleman is that it is inexcusable. There is simply no defence for it available. It is one of these curious accidents. I only hope for the sake of the House and for the sake of the departments concerned that it does not happen again.
These things do happen and all I can do is apologise. The second question raised by the honourable gentleman was whether there is any guarantee that payments have not been made. To the best of my knowledge, the answer is no. My inquiries would indicate that no payments have been made. But if by chance any payments have been made they certainly will be picked up by the Auditor-General.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a third time.
Motion (by Mr Killen) proposed:
That the House do now adjourn.
– 1 wish to raise a matter which I think is one of the most important and urgent for the Government to reconsider. Over a period of time now there has been a very deep and considerable public concern at the treatment meted out by the Government to a section of the community which has no way of coping with the problems of increasing prices and has no way of coping with the problems which are reducing their standards of living continually. I am referring to those persons who are dependent for their total income on base rate pensions. These people were graciously given a 50c increase in the 1970 Budget. Subsequently economic circumstances have changed to such an extent that that increase has been completely wiped out by actions of State governments and by actions of this Government, and the pensioners are left with a standard of living which is substantially lower than it was prior to the last Budget.
The concern expressed by the Government in relation to inflation and other matters is shared by most people in the community. However, it is not much help to those people who have insufficient income and who have no way of increasing their income unless the Government is prepared to do this for them. It is impossible for a person dependent on a base rate pension to live at the standard of living to which he is entitled or at the standard of living which the Prime Minister described last year as frugal comfort. In my opinion ‘frugal comfort’ means slow starvation, but it is a nice way of putting it.
Although it has been indicated outside this House and to some extent inside the House that the Government is not prepared to increase base rate pensions, I again raise this matter, because unless something is done now pensions will be even further behind wages and salaries by next October. The Government may decide to increase pensions in the nest Budget, but at the moment there is no firm indication that it will do so. If something is not done now hardship will befall these elderly people who have worked all their lives and who quite often, through no fault of their own, are not able to cope with the cost increases which have occurred in the postwar period. If a person who was fortunate enough to have worked in the 1930s could have saved every penny that he earned - this would have been very difficult - it would have taken him between 3 and 4 weeks to have saved 1 week’s pension at the current inadequate rate. So an unskilled person who was working for wages during that time would not have sufficient savings now to enable him to cope with the inflated costs. A suggestion to the contrary is a dream rather than a reality.
Revaluation of residential properties has recently taken place in Victoria. This has affected those pensioners who were able to purchase homes in earlier times, mainly at very low prices. A lot of the homes, whilst adequate for the needs of these people, are not what we would describe as replicas of Buckingham Palace. These homes have been valued on the basis of rentals that are received by some other person in a similar area and rates have gone up by as much as, and sometimes in excess of, 100 per cent. There is no way in which these people can cope with this increase. Similarly, the Victorian Housing Commission has increased its charges for pensioners living in special accommodation provided for them by an amount which is equal to the total increase and in many cases greater than the total increase in pensions provided by last year’s Budget.
The Prime Minister in a statement outside the House said that he did not consider that the basic cause of inflation was consumer demand, lt is also true to say that, although no-one on the Government side mentions it when he is talking about increased productivity, there is no consumer product in Australia today which is not being produced in sufficient quantity. Perhaps the farmers may say that their products are in short supply. They are not. They are in over supply. One of the results of increased prices which will continue to affect living standards of pensioners and others is that, whilst goods are available to be bought, pensioners cannot afford to purchase them. They do not have the cash.
Increased pensions would not mean a great increase in Government expenditure. A 50c increase would increase annual Goverment expenditure by $30m, but an increase of that amount would be totally inadequate. Nevertheless this example illustrates the amount of money we are talking about. 1 have no doubt that if the price of the F1 1 1 went up next week, even though we will never get the aircraft and it is doubtful whether it will ever fly, we would find the money to pay for it without one second’s thought. If Britain devalued her currency tomorrow, does any member of the Government seriously suggest that we would not find the funds to compensate the primary industries of this country for the losses they would incur? lt would be found overnight without one suggestion that the money was not available. There would bc no problems at all.
But these people, who are the hardest hit in our community and whose ability to’ cope with’ increased costs is totally nonexistent, are deliberately denied by the Government, as a matter of policy, any substantial increase in their income. They are being asked to pay the price of the inability of the Government to cope with its economic responsibilities. Members of the Government parties stand in their places day after day and- say: ‘lt is wages that are the trouble’. But when the Arbitration Commission, made its recent decision it made it on the basis of price increases which had already taken place. The decision had nothing whatever to do with future price increases.
There is no suggestion at all from any member of the Government parties that those who increase their profits irresponsibly, or those who increase their profits in order to finance the types of capital works which the Prime Minister seems to find objectionable at the moment, should come under the control of the Government. They are the Iilywhites or the candonowrongs of our community. The pensioners do not build big office blocks. They do not build new motels. They do not have any effect on this section of the economy. But they are the ones who are being made to suffer the most because of the Government’s refusal to accept its responsibilities. The Government refused to accept its responsibilities last year, and it is compounding the sin by continuing to do so. I suggest that if it is at all possible for the Government to recognise its error and to recognise the serious situation that exists in many cases it should do so.
I am not talking about the pensioner who has a private income. I am talking about the pensioner who is totally dependent on the base rate pension and who has no other source of income. I understand that such pensioners represent about 70 per cent of all base rate pensioners in the community. These people cannot reduce their standard of living, further without seriously affecting their health and their ability to continue living in our community.
If the Government wants these people to live out the rest of their lives in semistarvation and moral degradation and to become people who are not able to stand up with pride as real citizens of our country, why does it not come out and say so directly instead of trying to create a situation which should not exist in a prosperous country such as Australia and which need not exist if the Government faced’ up to its responsibilities?
– The Sunraysia District Council of the Australian Dried Fruits Association has been endeavouring to obtain from the Australian Broadcasting Commission improved radio services for the Mildura district, the Sunraysia district generally and, of course, others who would be within hearing distance of the new station. The improved services could be in the form of a relay station, a resident officer or increased power for the Renmark station. Today I only- want to introduce this matter very briefly, with the intimation that I will be following it up with further information and strong advocacy that something should be done in this area regarding a new ABC radio station.
Three proposals have been set out. One is the appointment of a regional officer who would send news to 3WV at Horsham, which also transmits to Warrnambool. This was thought not to be in the best interests of the area because the station at Horsham has enough news now. It always seems to have some news that it cannot use because of time limits. Therefore, if this proposal was adopted it would be very doubtful that the regional officer, being at Mildura, would be able to make the job worthwhile in view of the small amount of news that he would be able to have broadcast by 3WV, western Victoria. Apart from that the station is about 200 miles away from the dried fruits area and it would be better to have one nearer so we could get good clear programmes for the people who are chiefly engaged in the dried fruits industry.
The next proposition was that the Renmark station would be given more power. In my opinion this is better than the first suggestion because Renmark is a dried fruits area although in a small way, of course, compared wilh Sunraysia where most of the dried fruit pack in Australia is grown. But there seem to be some technical difficulties and one man from the Australian Broadcasting Commission whom I questioned on the subject said that if we strengthened the power at Renmark we would have to strengthen the power of a lot of other stations. This was not considered to be the best thing but it is, I think, the second best. The best course is for the Australian Broadcasting Commission to put in a regional station to serve the Sunraysia area which is in the corner of 3 States. Such a station would also serve the dried fruits area across the river in South Australia but, as I have said, it would serve chiefly the Mallee electorate of Victoria where nearly all of the dried fruit is grown.
We have just passed legislation in this House regarding the dried fruits research scheme. The findings of such research would be broadcast over this station. Many other things which would be of interest to this very important industry could also be broadcast. Dried fruits is, of course, a great export industry. It is not a big industry like wool or wheat but it is vitally important to Australia and, of course, to the people who reside in the area. I think I can say without any legitimate contradiction that Sunraysia is the most up to date and progressive soldier settlement area in Australia. But for irrigation and the dried fruits industry the area would be just rough mallee country. Everyone who has visited Mildura knows as well as I do that this is a very progressive area and one which should get every possible assistance.
– Who is the member?
– The member is the one who is now advocating that the area should get better treatment and more amenities regarding a radio station.
I will be following up this matter with the Postmaster-General (Sir Alan Hulme). I am not going into fine detail now because I did not let the PostmasterGeneral know that 1 was bringing up the matter. I did not realise that I would have the opportunity this afternoon to do so, but as the business of the House, to a certain extent, is finished and we have 40 minutes to spare there was an opportunity for me to introduce the subject on the spur of the moment. When the Postmaster-General hears about this - he may read it in Hansard or someone may draw his attention to it - I want him to know that we are anxious to get this station. We are anxious to serve this industry and to give the people the most up to date radio programmes that we can. The station, of course, would not be tied down to giving advice to dried fruits growers or citrus growers. It would be a general station. The main basis of my advocacy is that we want some clear radio station of a national status in this area which will give to this industry, and to the people in the area, the programmes that we think are necessary and not have to send scraps of news 200 miles to Horsham and then be crowded out by the signals from the Warrnambool station and the Horsham station and not get the news across. A very vital thing to people listening to these stations is the frost alarms. People who have any knowledge of the industry know that one of the greatest hazards it faces is frost. Warnings could always be given regarding the approach of frost conditions and perhaps save the crop, thus avoiding a severe loss to those who grow the crops and, of course, to the nation. I urge the PostmasterGeneral to make some investigations into what I have said with a. view to his answering perhaps questions or replying to speeches that I intend to make in the House in the future on this subject.
– The honourable member for Mallee (Mr Turnbull) has at last joined the forces of freedom and progress. He is advocating an extension of nationalised industry into his electorate. I congratulate him upon the realisation that that is the area from which he will get the most service. I want to speak about something completely different. My colleague the honourable member for Corio (Mr Scholes) raised the question of the cynical approach of this Government to age pensions. I want to refer to a matter of much more extreme and dangerous cynicism. I refer to the dispatch of another battalion to Vietnam within the last week or so. This .occurred despite the fact that the war, as far as our American allies are concerned, is being closed down. I just cannot understand the morality of a government which at this stage can continue to do that.
In the last few days in answer to a question by my friend the honourable member for Lalor (Dr J. F. Cairns) it was stated that 390 Australians have been killed in action in Vietnam and 55 have died because of accidental wounding or illness. That is a total of 445 young men who have lost their lives in Vietnam in the last 5 or 6 years and 2,198 men have been wounded. What does this mean to this battalion that has just been dispatched? On any kind of a statistical analysis it means that of those young men who were sent overseas between 20 and 40 of them will lose their lives in action. I would estimate that about 100 to 150 of those men will be wounded and perhaps about 10 to 20 will be totally and permanently incapacitated due to their war service. We should bear in mind that most of the ones who will be wounded, killed or injured will be those who were called up under the National Service Act. They will have been conscripted into a lifetime of poverty. For what? I believe this is the ultimate act of cynicism that this Government has perpetrated.
All the evidence is that the Western alliance or call it what you will - our association with the Americans in this matter and the New Zealanders - is withdrawing from the field in Vietnam yet in this crucial moment Australia is prepared to dispatch another 30 or 40 young men to their death and perhaps somewhere between 100 and 120 who will be seriously wounded. Why? ls there any possibility of a military result? Of course there is not. Nobody says that we will obtain a military result, lt is fairly obvious that the South Vietnamese Army now feels that it can almost go it alone. Australia will not produce any military result in Vietnam. Will our presence help the political solution? It will not. It is quite obvious that Australian forces in the area will in no way help to produce a political result.
When I was in Vietnam some 5 or 6 months ago I visited a fair sized town with a population of about 9,000 people and the authorities there believed that about 60 per cent to 70 per cent of the people there still supported the National Liberation Front. It is clear therefore that our presence will not have any effective result on the political or military operations. Why are our troops there? All I can say is that I guess this Government is a prisoner of its habits and decisions of the past or that it is a prisoner of its political advantage. I am afraid 1 have come to the conclusion that the only reason why this battalion was dispatched in the last week or so is that the Government is afraid of its Democratic Labor Party allies and that it wanted to guarantee continued support of DLP second preferences at election times. I can think of nothing more immoral. I can think of nothing more cynical and nothing for which this Government ought to be more condemned. This policy has produced disunity in the community. It has turned the words ‘national service’ into a term of derision, one might say. Nobody calls Army service ‘national service’ any more because of the operations of the National Service Act and the operations in Vietnam. Quite frankly I cannot understand how my colleagues opposite can continue to support this Act, particularly those who are of military age. In the last 2 or 3 years the Government has done something disastrous to the Australian Army.
In the last 2 years there have been several instances in which soldiers have been charged with the murder of their officers. I have some knowledge of the history of our armed forces and I do not know of any previous instances, although they could well have occurred, of soldiers being charged with the murder of their officers or non-commissioned officers, particularly not on the battlefield. Something disastrous has happened to the Australian Army. 1 would like the Minister for the Army (Mr Peacock) to give us a guarantee that he is turning his attention to the Service to find out why this is happening, lt is a terrible tragedy that our men are being shot by their fellow soldiers. It may well have happened because of drinking in the lines, or for some other reason, but the fact is that my study of the history of the Australian armed forces shows that it has never happened before. 1 believe that these events are the product of the cynicism and immorality of the whole system.
I hope that in the very near future - now, for that matter - the Government will announce a withdrawal timetable for our forces in Vietnam. There is no possible justification for the continued dispatch of our troops to Vietnam. For the benefit of my colleagues opposite who have just entered the chamber f will repeat the relevant statistics, as I see them, for the battalion which has just been dispatched to Vietnam. On the basis of the last 4 or 5 years, between 20 and 40 young men in that battalion will be killed before their year of service is over; from 100 to 150 of them will be wounded; and perhaps 15 to 20 of them will be maimed for life. How can the sending of those troops possibly be justified in view of the present situation in Vietnam?
I appreciate that honourable members opposite in their persona) lives have the same type of conscience as anybody else. I ask them to apply themselves to this question free of the subjective politics of the Australian scene. I ask them to realise that this is a matter of life and death for a large number of young Australians and that nothing can justify the retention of Australian forces in Vietnam.
– I wish to associate myself with the remarks of the honourable member for Mallee (Mr Turnbull). I also have been involved with the Sunraysia District Council of the Australian Dried Fruits Association in supporting its case for a better quality of broadcast signal from the Australian Broadcasting Commission’s transmitters in the district of Mildura. As the honourable member for Mallee has probably already told the House, at present the signal comes either from Horsham, which is some distance away from the Sunraysia district, including Mildura, or from Renmark, lt has been well known for a good many years that the signal coming from Renmark is of very low power. Even in South Australia people wishing to listen to the local ABC station have had a lot of trouble over a period of years. But this is not of great consequence to South Australia. It is of much greater consequence to the people of the Sunraysia district who wish to listen to the local ABC news.
There is a reason why they should at present tend to favour the Renmark station over the Horsham station. This is because of the community of interest between such people as the honourable member for Mallee and myself, and of course the people in our electorates. There is a distinct uniformity in the types of agriculture and environmental and climatic conditions in both Riverland and Sunraysia. Frost warnings and notifications of urgent public matters are of concern to both areas. The proposal to increase the power output of the Renmark broadcasting station might therefore be more attractive than’ a proposal to increase the power at the Horsham station, with consequent programming complications. However, my understanding at this point of time is that the Australian Broadcasting Control Board, while it may have been helpful, does not “intend to recommend that the quality of the radio signal to my friends across the border in the electorate of Mallee be increased. Whether the Horsham station should be upgraded, whether the power output of the Renmark station should be upgraded or whether there is room for a low output station at Mildura, I do not know But I support the remarks of the honourable member for Mallee. I have been invited to these meetings. I appreciate that the people of his district have a problem. I hope that the Australian Broadcasting Control Board in particular will take note of the few words put by the two of us on this occasion.
on this subject but 1 believe that it merits the attention of the Parliament, the principle involved being a great one. I shall repeat very briefly the circumstances of it. In December I received a letter from a lady in my electorate. She said: 1 am writing in connection with national service which my third son . . . has been called up to do. I am hoping that favourable consideration will be given to this case.
My eldest son . . . served in Vietnam . . . and was discharged from the Army on 1st February 1968. My second son . . . is at present stationed at Wallgrove Camp and is due for discharge on 24th December. Both these lads have had their teaching careers disrupted because of national service but I have been proud that they have served, their country. 1 do feel however that for a mother with three sons who have all been called up and two already served in the Army that consideration should be given in the case of the third son who does not wish to have his career disrupted. He has been teaching in New Guinea this year and wishes to continue to do so.
Then she cited the case that was raised in this Parliament by the honourable member for Lang (Mr Stewart) in connection wilh twin sons who would have been called upon to serve in the Army. Here is a family where two sons have already served in the Army and a third son has been selected out of the ballot, has now reported and has passed his medical examination to become a national service trainee. As he has been called up and had to report on 1st February, I urgently contacted the Minister again’ as he had acknowledged the letter but no decision had been given. On 29th January I. received a telegram from the Minister for Labour and National Service in which he stated:
Ref representations ‘ . . . concerning call up of . . . son … . for national service train-‘ ing. The call up of .brothers, and only sons for national service has been given a good deal of consideration. As the liability to register and render service is on the individual and not the. family there can be no question of exemption for men because a brother has already been called up to render service.
However provision has been made for cases in which hardship may arise as a result of call up. Should Mr . . .consider that call up will cause hardship to himself, his parents or dependants, if any, he should report to the national service registration office in’ Sydney on Tuesday, 2nd February and make application for deferment of call up on grounds of exceptional hardship. If he does this call up may. be deferred pending hearing of his hardship application.
In the absence of such an application . . . who was granted deferment as a student and then to be qualified as a teacher but who is no longer eligible for such deferment and has been passed fit for service should report for duty as required. 1 shall follow this advice with a letter to explain the Government’s policy in mors detail.
– Have you got the letter yet?
– As yet I have not received the letter. A principle is involved here. Here is a family with 3 sons, all of whom have registered and have evidently become liable for national service. Two have already served, one in Vietnam. The other might also have done so, but he has been discharged. I consider that there should be automatic exemption in cases of this nature. All of these boys have risked their lives and could easily have been amongst the 390 killed or 2,900 wounded in action in Vietnam according to the figures given a moment ago by the honourable member for Wills (Mr Bryant). I believe that there should not be any necessity to apply for examption in a case where 3 boys are concerned. After all, the ballot is a loaded one and there is no overall obligation in respect of these matters. The mother quite rightly has stated that a contribution of 2 sons .to the armed Services already is a great contribution to the salvation of the nation. Those of us on this side’ of politics think that none of these boys should be in. the forces under the conscription proposals. lt is amazing that at this stage when the Americans are pulling out thousands from Vietnam, when President Nixon has said that all Americans will be out within a ve’ry short time, 3 sons from this ohe family ‘in Australia have been called up to serve in the armed forces and possibly to serve in Vietnam. 1 do not think it should be necessary for a case such as this to go before a magistrate or anyone else. There should be provision for exemption in cases like this. I ask the Minister, if he has not already done so, to take appropriate action in this regard. Personally I can see no purpose in explaining to the lady the circumstances of the case. Who knows whether the magistrate will consider that it is a hardship because 3 sons are involved or because the third son is undergoing- a course of training or is teaching. To ‘all intents and purposes the boy concerned may have to follow the pattern of his brothers. The mother has made a reasonable request; I think it is sound.
The principle of equality of sacrifice is involved and I believe that a family with 2 sons in the forces already has made a major contribution. I bring this matter publicly to the Ministers attention and ask him to intervene in this case in order to protect this family and others who may be involved. I believe that this case merits not only sympathetic consideration but also that justice demands that an exemption should be granted without the formality of applying on the ground of hardship or for other reasons. 1 ask the Minister to look into the matter and to take appropriate action urgently as the serviceman concerned has already registered and been passed as medically fit and might end up in Vietnam unless prompt action is taken.
– 1 desire at the conclusion of the debates in this House this week to support, and I would hope thereby lo strengthen a little the submission made by the honourable member for Wills (Mr Bryant) (hat the Government must lay down a timetable for the withdrawal of Australian troops from Vietnam and that that timetable must be announced and understood by all without delay. Unfortunately the Minister for the Army (Mr Peacock) is not in the chamber for the rest of this debate, but I assume that what is said here and recorded in Hansard will sooner or later be read by somebody, even if only by accident.
It is quite clear that the role of the Australian forces in the Phuoc Tuy province is one which, on the facts, would appear to have no further justification, even if one assumes - I do not - that the Government had justification from the beginning for sending them there. The purpose of the dispatch of these forces to Vietnam has never been clear. When the Prime Minister at the time, the Right Honourable Sir Robert Menzies, announced on 29th April 1965 that these combat troops would be sent to Vietnam he did so in the context of a continuing thrust of China between the Indian and Pacific Oceans. Nobody has found any evidence of this and no longer does anyone submit that this is a factor which justifies the presence of Australian troops in Vietnam. Now the only stated purpose of Australian forces in Vietnam is to help the Government of South Vietnam to establish Vietnamisation, to establish order - however one wants to describe it - in South Vietnam. If the stage has been reached when the Government of South Vietnam can send 40,000 or 50,000 troops into Cambodia - another country - and 10,000 or 20,000 troops into Laos - another country - it should be expected that that Government has the power to establish order in a small province some 40 or 50 miles from Saigon, a province more than half of which has never at any stage been strongly influenced by National Liberation Front forces.
Even if the case for the presence of Australian troops in Vietnam is admitted - I do not admit it - it seems that there is no justification for their presence in this province so close to Saigon when so many strongly armed Saigon Government forces can go 400 miles from Saigon into Laos and 250 miles or more from Saigon into Cambodia. That suggests that Brigadier Serong who would be recognised by the Government and the Minister as an expert in military affairs in Vietnam, and perhaps not in the reasons why Australian troops have been sent there, was reported last week as saying that the reason why Australian troops were sent to Vietnam was political in the beginning, that their presence there is political now and that they should be retained there for political reasons. 1 would understand from what Brigadier Serong said that it is political in the sense that it depends upon our relationship with the United States, that we have to do things in the context of our relations with the United States, and that whilst the Americans have troops there we should have troops there and our withdrawals should be related to United States withdrawals. This is clearly a political reason, ls that then the reason why Australian troops are there? Were they sent there for political reasons? Are they still there for political reasons? This is a matter which calls for an answer from the Minister.
Unfortunately it is not possible in this House to get an answer in a more direct way because a member of the Opposition is able to ask a question without notice only on an average of once every 4 or 5 sitting days and it is not possible to cover the ground a member may wish to cover by asking questions in that way. To ask a question on the adjournment as I am doing now is about the only way to seek information. Therefore, I ask the Minister for the Army to answer the question, not just now but perhaps on some other occasion: Was Brigadier Serong right when he said Australian troops had been sent to Vietnam for politicalreasons and was he right when he said they should be retained there for political reasons? I do not know how satisfactory this would be to those who have suffered as a result of this involvement.
One other matter which I think is related to this subject concerns an article published in, I think, the home edition of the Melbourne ‘Herald1 on 11th February. It contained a report that a reason for the withdrawal of Australian forces from Vietnam was that it was part of the Government’s economy compaign. Apparently this has some foundation. We all know that things will not be reported in a paper like the Melbourne ‘Herald’ without some foundation. It is of not much satisfaction to anyone to be told that it would be all right to have Australian forces in Vietnam provided we could afford it but if we could not afford it some of them should be brought home. Many people read this report in the Melbourne ‘Herald’ and quite a number are disturbed by it. This is something which it is the responsibility of the Minister to answer. It all adds up to a situation in which, as the honourable member for Wills said - and he has had much more experience of the Army than I have - Viet nam has done considerable harm to the Australian armed forces. He suggests that never before in history have things happened in the Australian armed forces, particularly in the Army, such as have been happening in Vietnam. Never to anything like the same extent have there been so many murders and other crimes committed in the armed forces. He suggested that it was the cynicism, the lack of feeling of justification and the lack of belief in the purpose that is involved in this invasion of Vietnam which has produced this result. I for one believe that any Minister the age of the present Minister for Shipping and Transport (Mr Nixon), who has dodged service in Vietnam-
– What about your front line service?
– I am not making any great claim to heroism and the honourable member for the Northern Territory (Mr Calder) does not exactly give me the impression of being a hero either. 1 am not going to question his bravery and I suggest he keep his mouth shut about questioning mine.
Motion (by Sir Alan Hulme) agreed to:
That the question be now put.
Original question resolved in the affirmative.
House adjourned at 3.46 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 19 February 1971, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1971/19710219_reps_27_hor71/>.